Just ten years ago, only 33 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage. Now, backing marriage equality is a must for many big businesses. Leading up to this week's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court, 278 companies across the country have filed "friend of the court" briefs to support repealing the law (zero have filed saying it's good for business).
The companies range from big to small, from two-person law firms to corporate giants like Armani, Levis, and Mars. Clearly, there's a valid, cynical argument that the companies who make Skittles and fancy suits have a vested interest in the gay wedding market, but these companies aren't just supporting marriage equality because they think it will broaden their customer base. In the Supreme Court brief, they argue that discriminating against LGBT folks is bad for business and a supremely awkward law.
If the moral and ethical arguments in favor of marriage equality don't sway the justices, maybe the dollar and cents logic will stick.
Here are three pro-gay, pro-business arguments from the brief:
1) DOMA forces employers to offer worse benefits packages. Employers want to be able to offer their workers competitive healthcare and retirement benefits—that's how they get people to take jobs and stick with them. But federal law, which doesn't recognize same-sex couples' marriages, cuts into the benefits companies would like to provide. For example, federal law grants married couples certain benefits like being able to take a leave of absence from work if your husband is seriously ill—but if that employee is a man married to a man, he doesn't get that leave. That "thwarts" employees from devoting focus and attention to their work, argues the brief.
2. The federal law forces companies to break their own non-discrimination rules. Even in states where same-sex marriage is legal, as companies are put together employee health plans and benefits, they have to create work-arounds and separate paperwork for same-sex couples that don't qualify for the federal benefits. "We must treat one employee less favorably, or at minimum differently, when each is as lawfully married as the other," note the businesses. That sets them up to potentially be sued and violates many company's missions to not discriminate among employees.
3. Discrimination hurts morale. Businesses don't want their workers to think of them as the bad guy. The brief points out that when Yale University complied with DOMA and withheld some tax benefits from employees who had same-sex marriages, this "cast the university as the antagonist to its own employees."
Big business support has already shifted the tide in support of marriage equality. Washington State's successful marriage equality ballot measure successful campaign this fall raised a jaw-dropping $13.3 million, much of which came from individual business leaders like Bill and Melinda Gates and executives at Amazon.com, Nike, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, and Microsoft.
One of the smallest businesses on the list opposing DOMA in court is Seattle's Stuffed Cakes. This four-person cake baking operation is not even three years old, but founder Donna Lawson wanted to make sure her business did all it could to support repealing the law, regardless of the business a boom in same-sex weddings could create.
"We've done cakes for wedding before they were legal," says Lawson. "We work with any kind of couple, any kind of family, I have friends of all different genders and sexuality. It's just important to me as a company to say that we stand for equality."