Businesses No Longer Keep Their Distance When It Comes to Same-Sex Marriage

By Tim Pate

Wedding bands

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, the assumed position of most companies when it came to social and cultural issues was to have no position at all. Presumably, businesses steered clear of getting involved in societal debates in the interest of maintaining clientele from all points on the spectrum. By not taking a stance, businesses were able to preserve relationships with people of all persuasions without ruffling any feathers.

7-Election

Image credit: 7-Eleven

Of course, some companies embraced social discourse and debate as part of their business models. For example, 7-Eleven took advantage of the United States’ polarization to bring customers election-themed coffee cups, which sported the names of the leading Democrat and Republican candidates. However, most companies traditionally keep quiet when controversial topics arise.

This trend may be evolving, as indicated by two briefs companies recently signed in support of marriage equality and against California’s Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Among the companies adding their names to the joint briefs are Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Intel. With the upcoming Supreme Court hearing the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which will determine the constitutionality of Proposition 8, many companies have decided to add their voices to the conversation rather than stay silent.

According to All Things Digital, an online publication for technology and startup news:

“Success depends on the talent, morale and motivation of the workforce for private and public employers alike,” the document states.

“DOMA hurts legally married same-sex couples and prevents companies from treating all employees as equals,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told AllThingsD. “Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we hope the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional.”

In an interview with New York Times, Joshua Rosenkranz, a partner at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, said:

Corporate America is not only already there, but they’re passionate about it. For them, it’s not just a human rights issue, it’s a business imperative.

On the other hand, some people argue that same-sex marriage could hurt businesses and the economy. In 2009, then-GOP chairman Michael Steel argued:

“Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,” Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. “So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”

Though companies in support of DOMA and Proposition 8 have been less vocal than their business counterparts who oppose bans on same-sex marriage, some top-level executives have made their opinions known through donations and business practices.  Business leaders at companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, Exxon-Mobil and others have backed organizations opposing same-sex marriage and have stated their beliefs on the issue.

Whatever your opinion, businesses electing to come out of the closet in support of same-sex marriage is an interesting development. Will it make a difference?

Share with us your thoughts: Should businesses and company leaders choose a side when it comes to gay marriage? Or would it behoove these companies to instead remain detached and go about business as usual? 

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