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NC Amendment to Ban Same-sex Marriage Bad for Business?

September 9, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - With the economy stalled and unemployment rising, the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes Monday for its third session this summer. One of the first items on their agenda is a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Although same-sex marriages already are prohibited in the state, business leaders say adding it to the state's constitution could influence how the state is viewed by out-of-state businesses who might relocate here.

Anthony Pugliese, a senior vice president with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, says the AICPA probably wouldn't have relocated here in 2006 from New Jersey if this amendment had been on the books.

"Despite what the proponents of this amendment say, it is a factor in how people view the state. You look at all things before you tell hundreds of employees that you're about to relocate to a different area."

Passing an amendment banning same-sex marriage could also complicate matters for companies offering domestic-partner benefits to their employees. Pugliese, a member of the Durham Chamber of Commerce, says passing such an amendment sends a message to businesses in the United States and worldwide that the state is not open to diversity.

"It makes North Carolina look bad. It makes it look unfriendly to diversity, and I think any company looking to move here is going to look for that in the same way that AICPA did."

Although same-sex marriage is already prohibited in North Carolina, Pugliese and other business leaders say putting it in the constitution sends the wrong message.

"It's a different level of attention, and it's a different level of taking a discriminatory law and actually moving it into a constitution of a state."

AICPA hired 450 employees in the Durham area when it opened its new headquarters. If the Defense of Marriage Act is approved, North Carolina voters would decide in the November 2012 election if a constitutional amendment should state that marriage is between one man and one woman. Supporters of the amendment say it would help protect the current law from being changed and from court rulings.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC