Gay marriage: why corporations are coming out against DOMA
Nearly 300 US companies filed a brief on behalf of the New York woman whose challenge of DOMA has reached the Supreme Court. Why support gay marriage? For one, it's just good business.
Wading into the highly emotional but quickly shifting national debate over gay marriage, 278 companies filed an amicus brief Wednesday in support of Edith Windsor, the New York woman whose challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been taken up by the United States Supreme Court.Skip to next paragraph
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Among the companies filing the brief are behemoths Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Starbucks, corporate entities associated with America’s youth culture. But others include pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, insurance mainstay Aetna, and Citigroup.
In addition to the challenge to DOMA, which centers on Ms. Windsor’s having had to pay a substantial federal estate tax following the death of her partner of more than 40 years, whom she married in Canada, the Supreme Court is also taking up California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Windsor would not have had to pay any federal estate tax on the inheritance had the United States recognized her marriage. The court will hear arguments on Prop. 8 on March 26, and on DOMA on March 27.
So what interests do corporations, which usually shun controversy, have in urging the Supreme Court to sign off on gay marriage? One reason, it appears, is they think it’s just good business.
Interviews with legal experts, marketing and public relations specialists, and others say the reasons are more complex than just the increased social acceptance of gay marriage, reflected in opinion polls and such actions as President Obama’s historic embrace of it last year. They say businesses are acting in the interest of their own economic bottom line.
“A lot of these corporations looked at what happened with Chick-Fil-A last summer and decided that coming out against same-sex marriage is bad for business,” says Robert Hume, a professor of political science at Fordham University in New York. Chick-Fil-A, the southern-based food franchise, became embroiled in demonstrations and boycotts last year after president Dan Cathy came out against gay marriage and in support of the “biblical definition of the family unit.”
“With people across the political spectrum coming out in favor of same-sex marriage and with young people overwhelmingly behind it, corporations might have decided that it is only a matter time before it becomes our national policy too,” says Professor Hume. “They don’t want to get on the wrong side of this issue.”
The corporations themselves trumpet their commitment to fairness and inclusion.
“We are proud of our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equal treatment of all our employees within our benefits programs,” David Rodriguez, executive vice president of Marriott, said in a statement. “Joining the Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal affirms that commitment, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.”