Corporations and businesses stand for the freedom to marry

Powerful voices are continuing to speak out about the importance of the freedom to marry - and in some cases, advocates are emerging from fields that have generally remained firmly neutral on social issues. In the past year, a record number of U.S. businesses and corporations have thrown their support behind campaigns pushing for marriage for same-sex couples. In November, 48 companies signed onto an amicus brief outlining why the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples, hurts their employees. Last June, dozens of companies lobbied New York representatives to pass the freedom to marry in the state. And in January, a number of companies expressed support for marriage in Washington state.
The business sector - including a wide range of companies, from Boeing and Goldman Sachs to Nike and Starbucks - clearly finds it important for public relations and logistical operations to work on behalf of same-sex couples. 
The newfound support from dozens of U.S. corporations is one indication that it is now more advantageous to speak out in favor of the freedom to marry than it is to oppose it, or even to stay neutral on the topic. Companies have clearly been paying attention to the fact that in poll after poll, a majority of the population is voicing their opinion that the freedom to marry should be available to all couples. 
Beyond that, however, these companies are realizing that standing up for the freedom to marry is the right thing to do to support their employees. The amicus brief filed in November clearly demonstrates why it's actually smart business - not to mention positive company ethics - for corporations to speak up for marriage. Here's a passage from the brief, which was filed on behalf of 48 companies, including Levis Strauss & Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Microsoft, CBS, Google, The Ogilvy Group, Xerox, Time Warner Cable, and dozens of others. 
Federal law provides to the working family many benefits and protections relating to healthcare, protected leave, and retirement. These protections provide security and support to an employee grappling with sickness, disability, childcare, family crisis, or retirement, allowing the employee to devote more focus and attention to his work. In Massachusetts, for example, married employees expect to enjoy the full array of "protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage." They make important personal and financial decisions in reliance on that promise and expect such protections to be available to them when faced with challenging life circumstances.
DOMA defeats this expectation, to the direct detriment of some married employees of amici, and by extension, of amici ourselves. As set forth below, DOMA forces amici to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully-married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-sex spouse. DOMA enforces discriminatory tax treatment of spousal health care benefits. In many other benefit-related matters, amici must incur the cost and administrative burden of "workarounds" (employer-created benefit structures attempting to compensate for the discriminatory effects of DOMA), or leave the married workforce in separate castes. 
The brief goes on to detail exactly how DOMA interferes with business' ability to treat their employees fairly. It specifically discusses health insurance, retirement protections, and visa rights. The brief goes onto explain how DOMA forces employers to passively reinforce discrimination:
DOMA imposes on amici not simply the considerable burden of compliance and cost. DOMA conscripts amici to become the face of its discrimination. As employers, we must administer employment-related health plans, retirement plans, family leave, and COBRA. We must impute the value of spousal healthcare benefits to our employees' detriment. We must intrude on their privacy by investigating the gender of their spouses, and then treat one employee less favorably, or at minimum differently, when each is as lawfully married as the other. We must do all of this in states that prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and demand equal treatment of all married individuals. This conscription has harmful consequences.  

 It is important to celebrate when corporations and businesses recognize the harm that laws have on their employees and subsequently take action in hopes of correcting those laws. Freedom to Marry applauds businesses that have taken steps to advocate for their gay and lesbian employees and make the case for the freedom to marry in a sphere that generally takes a "hands-off" approach to social government policies. We are energized by so many different groups of people from across the country taking the time to consider the importance of the freedom to marry and speaking out after realizing how essential marriage is to same-sex couples.