DENVER— When Amazon put out its big list of 20 cities where it might build its new headquarters building, some gay rights activists noticed something: more than half the cities are in states with discrimination laws that don't protect sexual orientation.
Amazon has a really good reputation in the LGBT community - which is why some in that community saw the map of 20 finalist cities and went: "what the heck?!"
“It was shocking. It was stunning. Honestly, it was a little disappointing,” said Conor Gaughan, the spokesman for a new campaign targeting Amazon. “Our point of view is you can't reward states who discriminate.”
He’s with a hurriedly-formed campaign called "No Gay, No Way," made up of LGBT activists from several different groups.
They put out a map of their own, highlighting 11 of the finalist cities in nine states which don't protect sexual orientation in all their anti-discrimination laws.
In parts of those states, it can be legal to discriminate against gay people looking for jobs or places to rent. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, agrees with the movement. But he had his own message about it.
Sure, he pumped the fact that Colorado's laws do cover sexual orientation, but he says a campaign like this could light a fire under states that don’t.
“This is something that most of the tech community really cares about,” Hickenlooper said. “I think there's going to be a lot of pressure to change these laws. I mean look how many states have done it. I think it's an interesting idea and it's probably going to be very effective.”
“I wish it wasn't effective,” Hickenlooper quipped. “Because I like having Colorado have an advantage over all those other cities in other states. But I suspect it will be successful.
Amazon declined to comment, but pointed out that in its call out for bids it said it wants places that "support a diverse population."
The activists argue if Amazon really meant that, these nine states should never have made the cut.
Amazon hasn’t said whether it plans to whittle the list down further or simply choose a winner from the 20 cities it already named.