March 26, 2012

A top Bank of America Corp executive has taken a stand against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in its home state, saying the proposal would be "disastrous" to North Carolina's business climate.

Cathy Bessant, Bank of America's head of technology and operations, spoke out against "Amendment One" in a YouTube video uploaded this month by a group called The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families. The group is urging a "No" vote in the May 8 referendum.

"Amendment One is a direct challenge to our ability to compete nationally for jobs and economic growth," Bessant says in the video. "Large corporations hate this kind of controversy."

The amendment has the potential to have a "disastrous effect" on the state's ability to attract talented employees and keep them in the state, she adds.

Bessant isn't the first banking leader to take a stand on the issue. In February, Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein appeared in a video supporting same-sex marriage.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank, is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. About 18,000 of its 285,000 employees work in the state.

Bank of America spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie on Monday said the bank is not taking a position on Amendment One, "consistent with our typical practice." But the bank's employees are "allowed and encouraged" to be involved personally with important public issues.

Bank of America has long been known for its support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The bank was a leader in offering domestic partner benefits and the bank's main health plan includes medically necessary treatments for transgender employees, Nastacie said.

Bessant, who is based in Charlotte, joined a Bank of America predecessor company in 1982. She has held a number of top jobs at the bank, including chief marketing officer and head of corporate banking, and currently reports to Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan.

Bessant could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, N.C.; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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