Could LGBT rights be a factor in Amazon’s closely-watched selection process for its new headquarters, known as HQ2?
An article from the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, suggests this may be the case.
“Amazon has quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters,” the paper says, citing two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Amazon representatives questioned officials in North Carolina about its controversial bathroom bill, which mandated that transgender citizens use the restroom of the gender on their birth certificate, as apposed to how they identify. The law was partially repealed in 2017, but still prohibits local lawmakers from enacting anti-LGBT discrimination laws. An executive at the company also allegedly “groaned” at the mention of proposed legislation in Georgia that would restrict funding for same-sex adoption.
Fortune contacted Amazon for a comment about the Washington Post story, and we will update as necessary.
Cities are battling for the headquarters, which is expected to create 50,000 high-paying jobs and a $5 billion dollar investment. Amazon’s decision is planned for later this year.
In a statement to tech news site GeekWire, Amazon pointed to its request for proposal for cities hoping to pitch the company on landing the huge project. “The Project requires a compatible cultural and community environment for its long-term success,” the proposal states. “This includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes.”
This is not the first time that there has been speculation over whether a state or city’s LGBT rights stance would play into the HQ2 decision. The Washington Blade, an LGBT publication, posed the question in December.
Amazon and its founder have a strong record of LGBT rights. In 2012, Bezos and his wife donated $2.5 million in support of Referendum 74, which asked voters if they supported same-sex marriage in Washington state. The referendum, which passed and went into effect in 2016, affirmed a state law that legalized same-sex marriage.
A former Amazon employee who emailed Bezos to ask for a $100,000 to $200,000 donation for the cause got this email in response from Bezos and his wife: “Jen, This is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million.”
In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign awarded Bezos the National Equality Award, to recognize his support for the LBGT community. Amazon also received a perfect 100 in the group’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index.
Earlier this year, LGBT activists launched “No Gay, No Way” in an effort to lobby Amazon against the nine states without anti-discrimination laws. Of the 20 Amazon HQ2 finalist cities, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Columbus, Miami, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Northern Virginia, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Nashville are located in states without anti-discrimination laws.
Yet, some in the LGBT community don’t want Amazon to rule out cities that have their own LGBT protections, but are in those nine states that do not have similar protections. “And it’s painful to have the cities where many of our LGBTQ community live and work, and where many of our officials are elected, be penalized because of state actions that are discriminatory,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is an lesbian, told the Blade.
On the flip side, the issue could raise ire with conservative lawmakers in those aforementioned states, where companies like Delta have been punished for their social views.
The HQ2 decision, which Amazon is planned for later this year, is expected to create 50,000 high-paying jobs in the city that it selects, and a $5 billion dollar investment in the headquarters.