By Craig Jarvis for Raleigh News & Observer
The Washington Post reported Friday that Amazon has decided to limit its criteria for choosing a second headquarters to states that have laws in place to protect gay and transgender people.
The Post attributed the decision to two unnamed sources.
The Post also reported that Amazon representatives who have met with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper asked “pointed questions” about state policies, including HB2, the law that restricted transgender people’s use of public restrooms. The law has since been repealed, although LGBT advocates say the repeal didn’t go far enough.
The governor’s office declined to confirm or deny the report when contacted by The News & Observer.
“We won’t comment on specific economic development projects, but whenever anyone asks the governor about HB2, he addresses it directly, outlining everything North Carolina is doing be an inclusive and welcoming place, from repealing HB2 to signing an executive order to prohibit discrimination in state contracting,” spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said Friday evening.
In October, Cooper wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to emphasize North Carolina’s business-friendly climate and “welcoming” mores.
“Like every family with an embarrassing uncle or two, we have a few politicians who want it to be 1957 instead (of) 2017,” Cooper wrote. “But here in North Carolina you’ll find authentic people who respect others, who love our families, people who work hard and are loyal to the state in which we live.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, wrote their own letter to Bezos, pointing out the state’s income tax rate is dropping and noting the state has recently bolstered its financial incentives to lure a major player like Amazon. Leaders are open to “further modifications” of the incentives, they wrote.
In February, a national campaign called “No Gay? No Way!” was launched to convince Amazon not to choose states that have discriminatory policies. The campaign included North Carolina among the offenders.
On Friday, the Washington, D.C.-based campaign released a statement responding to the Washington Post story.
“We are heartened to read the news that rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people are part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters,” Conor Gaughan, campaign manager, said in a statement.
The campaign said it needs more information about Amazon’s position.
It’s unclear if Amazon’s position is in response to the “No Gay? No Way!” campaign. In its invitation for regions to compete for the second headquarters, Amazon’s requirements for being selected included “compatible cultural and community environment.”
An Amazon spokesman could not be reached to confirm the news report or to comment on whether it would have an impact in North Carolina.
The Triangle is one of 20 locations that made the first cut in the competition. Amazon says it plans to spend $5 billion on the project and over time hire as many as 50,000 people.
The Post story said that the pastor of a large predominantly gay church in Dallas attended a visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth area by Amazon officials assessing that state’s chances of landing HQ2. The pastor, the Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, assured the representatives that the region was tolerant and welcoming.
The Seattle Times also published a story on Friday saying some of the company’s employees have been urging HQ2 only be located in an LGBT-friendly city. In response, an Amazon vice president of public policy assured members of an internal advocacy group in an email.
“I am personally very proud of our long-standing track record of supporting our LGBT employees and advancing legal protections for LGBT people,” Brian Huseman wrote, according to the Times. “And we’ll continue to join the business community in efforts to oppose laws that discriminate or encourage discrimination, no matter where HQ2 lands.”
Amazon is headquartered in Seattle.
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