In a major and somewhat unusual move, over 70 major businesses and organizations filed a legal brief stating their opposition to the anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Some of the major corporations signed on to the brief include Microsoft, Starbucks, Google, Nike, Levi Strauss, and many others.
The brief lays out why DOMA needs to be repealed because it puts a major burden on businesses and employees. According to The Advocate:
Their brief points out that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is defending DOMA in court on the notion that it imposes "a uniform rule" on whose marriage is recognized. "The perspective of the American employer who must implement DOMA is very different," the companies state. "Employers are obliged to treat one employee spouse differently from another, when each is married, and each marriage is equally lawful."
The companies say DOMA "forces" them "to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-sex spouse." For example, HIPPA laws usually consider marriage a "qualifying event" that automatically enrolls a spouse in an employee's health insurance. Companies now spend time and money weeding out any gay employees who get married.
If companies don't want to discriminate, because it hurts their recruiting efforts or they're just opposed to it in principle, then DOMA causes a bunch of "workarounds" that come with wasteful administrative costs of their own.
The companies also state the negative impact DOMA has on recruiting and keeping the best employees, a stance that backs up the recent studies by the Williams Institute and Center for American Progress of both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses that have shown that pro-equality policies are good for a company's bottom line. The legal brief also points out the even greater effect on small businesses that don't have the resources of larger corporations to find ways to treat employees equally. As The Advocate writes:
"The burden on the small employer is especially onerous," the companies point out. Small businesses can't afford to hire consultants, and "such burdens, standing alone, might chill a smaller employer from employing an otherwise qualified employee because she happens to be married to a same-sex spouse."
This huge step from the corporate world comes on the heels of a brief filed by 130 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, arguing that the 1996 law is unconstitutional. According to SFGate:
The Democrats' brief argues that Congress acted hastily in 1996, operating under negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians who at the time were not permitted to marry anywhere in the world. Discrimination kept many gays and lesbians closeted, the brief argues, "permitting false stereotypes and reflexive bias to dominate the public and congressional debate."
The brief also argues that the law overtly discriminates against a class of citizens, making it subject to stiffer scrutiny than most laws, and that it cannot withstand such scrutiny under the constitution's guarantee of equal protection for all under the law.
We are seeing major movement on the question of marriage equality on many fronts. While we too often still hear about businesses like Chick-fil-A giving millions to anti-gay groups like Exodus International, an organization that pushes dangerous "ex-gay" conversion therapy, it is just as important to recognize businesses and organizations that step up and do the right thing. Just like we should avoid giving money to businesses that use our dollars against us, we should recognize and support companies that match our values when it comes to civil rights and equality.
The following businesses, organizations, and municipalities were part of the filed brief:
Akamai Technologies, Inc.
Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
Biogen Idec, Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Inc.
Boston Community Capital, Inc.
Boston Medical Center Corp.
Bright Horizons Children's Centers LLC
Calvert Investments, Inc.
The Chubb Corporation
Constellation Energy Group, Inc.
Diageo North America, Inc.
Eastern Bank Corp.
FitCorp Healthcare Centers, Inc.
Integrated Archive Systems, Inc.
Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC
Levi Strauss & Co.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Trust, LLC
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Massachusetts Envelope Company, Inc.
Massachusetts Financial Services Company
National Grid USA, Inc.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
New England Cryogenic Center, Inc.
The Ogilvy Group, Inc.
Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Partners HealthCare System, Inc.
Reproductive Science Center of New England
Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
State Street Bank and Trust Co.
Stonyfield Farm, Inc.
Sun Life Financial (U.S.) Services Co., Inc.
Time Warner Cable, Inc.
Trillium Asset Management Corp.
W/S Development Associates LLC
Law and professional firms:
Burns & Levinson LLP
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP
Foley Hoag LLP
Goodwin Proctor LLP
Goulston & Storrs, P.C.
McCarter & English LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Parthenon Group LLC
Ropes & Gray LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Professional, trade and civic organizations:
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
The Boston Foundation
Massachusetts Association of Health Plans
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Inc.
The National Fire Protection Association
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
And the following cities:
The City of Boston, Mass.
The City of Cambridge, Mass.
The City of New York, N.Y.
Let's hope this momentum toward equality continues to build so we see DOMA repealed once and for all.