On Tuesday, May 8, voters in North Carolina will go to the polls to decide whether our state needs a constitutional amendment to ban a portion of its population from enjoying the benefits of a monogamous marriage and the wellbeing it provides.
On Wednesday, May 9, the founders of Phācia Inc. (CEO Karen Shank and myself) will decide whether we want to accept funding to continue developing our business in the state.
It’s your move, voters.
Phācia was founded in Raleigh, NC, by pharmaceutical and software industry veterans a little more than a year ago, and its founders have worked diligently with their own funds to earn the company’s reputation as a quality app developer and mobile technology company. Today, we’re a few weeks away from a major product launch, and we’re poised to expand our operations rapidly in the coming months — bringing new talent, new funding and new technologies to the area. To do so, we are facing some tough choices about what we’re willing to sacrifice, accept and expect in the near future.
Unfortunately, since our original plans were made last year, we’ve begun to have second thoughts about whether it’s feasible to run a competitive, worldwide business from North Carolina these days: In short, we’re worried that our state may soon tell the rest of the world that it’s not interested in doing business with it.
On May 8, North Carolina’s voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment – not a mere law or resolution, mind you, but a Constitution-altering amendment of the same magnitude as the law prohibiting people from owning other people within the state — that bans any legal union of same-sex couples who wish only to live, work and be happy as any other couple might expect in the state.
Business leaders in North Carolina have been unusually quiet about this law, and this confuses the heck out of us at Phacia. We happen to be a two-person team of die-hard heterosexuals, so one might think we’d have no dog in this fight. But in fact, just about anyone who does business with anyone outside the state — or who hopes to hire anyone from anywhere — has quite a lot to lose if this amendment passes.
“We’re competing with Silicon Valley, New York City, even China, when it comes to hiring top talent and attracting investors,” CEO Karen Shank said this week. “We can’t afford to look like a backwater crossing with intolerant views and no respect for large groups that use our products.”
As Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said last week, “You’re sending a message to the world about what kind of community this is; that we’re not inclusive.”
Meanwhile, we have an established company and a new product that we feel have the potential to bring both jobs and revenue to our state… but frankly, in a field currently dominated by the recruiting powerhouses in Silicon Valley and New York City, we certainly don’t relish the thought of our state’s telling the world that we are intolerant, bigoted and unable to accept others for who they are. It’s already a herculean task luring qualified technical and creative talent to accomplish our goals here; we don’t need yet another reason for them to say no (And believe us, there are many reasons Amendment One would encourage them to say no).
Thus, Phacia has halted its capital-raising, recruiting and expansion activities for now, deciding instead to wait and see what kind of state we live in on May 9 before making any more commitments. We still love NC, but there are certainly other states hospitable to a business that couldn’t care less who its customers choose to marry.
By the way, if passed, this would not mark the first time North Carolina has amended its constitution to place arbitrary restrictions on which couples are allowed to marry: In 1875, the state banned “all marriages between a white person and a negro.” We don’t need another shameful law – neither imagined nor endorsed by the original framers of the constitution – marring North Carolina’s history books. (Thankfully, this last one was abandoned by clearer heads in 1971, when a new constitution was ratified.)
Polls show that as many as 90% of North Carolinians still do not understand the harms of Amendment One even though early voting begins on Thursday. These same polls also show that the more people understand the potential impact of the amendment, the less likely they are to vote for it.
– from “The Facts About Amendment One“