Bil Browning

Facebook Co-Founder Takes On NC Legislature

Filed By Bil Browning | September 10, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Chris Hughes, Equality NC, Facebook, gay marriage, marriage amendment, same-sex marriage, Sean Eldridge

chris-hughes.jpgFacebook co-founder Chris Hughes has thrown down the gauntlet to North Carolina legislators agitating for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. Equality North Carolina shares this open letter Hughes penned about the effect an amendment would have on businesses in the Tar Heel state.

Hughes and his partner, Sean Eldridge, have also offered a way for folks nationwide to help the state equality group. The duo will donate $10 for each person who likes the Equality North Carolina Facebook page.

Complete text of Hughes' open letter after the break.

An Open Letter to the North Carolina General Assembly:

I'm writing today to express my deep concern and fervent opposition to the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment, SB106/HB777.

As the co-founder of Facebook, I have some experience with the challenges of attracting the kind of driven, dynamic and diverse employees it takes to build a fledgling start-up into a full- fledged economic success story.

Companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are the future of our global economy. But the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment signals to these and other major employers, as well as their mobile, educated employees, that North Carolina does not welcome the diverse workforce that any state needs to compete in the international marketplace.

In short, this amendment is bad for business, bad for the perception of my home state on the national stage, and a far cry from job-creating legislation that North Carolina lawmakers should be focused on.

But the negative business impact is far from the only harm of this amendment. Growing up in a conservative atmosphere in Hickory, North Carolina, I felt first-hand the stigma of being different in a Southern state--a feeling that made it clear to me that I was not welcome in North Carolina.

The proposed discriminatory legislation will only perpetuate this stigma for a new generation of creative, talented youth, uninterested in second-class citizenship in a state they call home. Gay and lesbian North Carolinians work hard, contribute to society, and want to protect their families like everyone else. Their families deserve the same respect and the same treatment as everyone else, and they should not be exposed to the derogatory and harmful anti-gay rhetoric that inevitability accompanies these kinds of campaigns. North Carolina deserves better than that.

The next Facebook or Apple or Google could be created by another North Carolinian. Be mindful of how you treat them and their families.

Chris Hughes Co-founder of Facebook and North Carolina native

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Angela Brightfeather | September 10, 2011 3:34 PM

I thank Chris Hughes for his timely and accurate letter to the NC Legislature.

As a native New Yorker who moved to North Carolina almost 15 years ago to find a more prosperous business environment, I have learned a few things about North Carolina that continue to amaze me.

The religious fervor and anti GLBT feelings I encountered here in NC since I moved, have been continually changing over that time to a more accepting state due to the work of EqualityNC and the many major Corporations like IBM. GE, Bank of America and many others who have led the way for people to accept GLBT people more.

In that time, Republican legislators and religious leaders from the right have been carrying on a continuual fight to counteract any progress, in the face of these changing times.

NC has a history of discrimination that has been perfected, on the level of an art form, and well hidden behind religious traditons and Republican legislators since the end of the Civil War. I noticed this first in the state's school systems, and when that form of discrimination was uncovered and began to change, the fervor and need for discrimination was transfered to GLBT people with laws such as the one in Charlotte 11 years ago to refuse funding for the arts in Mecklenburg County because their art's festival dared to allow a play to be shown that centered around a gay theme. Since that time, the NC legislature has literally clamped onto the idea of forcing discrimination upon NC citizens by centereing their attention on the marriage issue. In every election over recent years, the marriage issue has been used to gin-up the religious right base in NC and get Republicans seated in the legislature. Every two years, when the legislature is allowed to consider legislation around "moral" issues, NC GLBT people are forced into fighting for their rights by a legislature and religious zealots that drain the community of valuable resources, people's time and at the expense of other GLBT issues that are equally discriminatory and unfair to NC GLBT people.

I sense the fight this year as one that is very importnat because NC is at a tipping point right now. Chris Hughes's letter is that much more important now, but no more or less important than letters that should be coming from the many companies that call North Carolina their home. This time, if the Republican legislature and the religious zealots are defeated, I think it will be the last time that they will be able to hope to introduce such legislation again and be successful. Because NC has universites like Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State, along with a vibrant state University system, the young generation of activists, ready to influence the political system in a more progressive way may finally have the numbers and the influence to make future legislation a non-issue in North Carolina...which would be a welcome situation and one that would allow the GLBT community in NC to focus on advancing other progressive legislation in the future, instead of having to always be on the defencive.

There is little hope that North Carolina will even pass legislation of it's own, such as New York's recent legislation recognizing same gender marriage, but by defeating the discrimination this time, North Carolinian GLBT people will at least have the opportunity to take the offensive in the future.