An update in case you don’t follow judicial politics: The United States Supreme Court is about to hear a couple of cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), the 1996 legislation that effectively said “in the eyes of the federal government, marriage and related legal benefits can only occur between a man and a woman.”
Public opinion on the issue has shifted dramatically since that law passed, and now more than 200 of the country’s biggest brands are teaming up to let the Supreme Court know that this isn’t just a cultural or political matter–DoMA is making it harder for businesses to operate.
Brands ranging from techies like Facebook and Apple to consumer biggies like Nike and even financial titans like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs signed on to file what’s called a “supporting brief” or “friend of the court brief”. Their major point: DoMA effectively forces us to discriminate against our employees and makes the process of finding, courting and rewarding the talent we need that much more challenging.
How so, you ask?
Because these companies currently cannot offer federal benefits to same-sex spouses–and this fact complicates the hiring process and internal employee relations, creating “unnecessary costs” and forcing companies to develop two different tax and payroll systems. This is especially burdensome for big brands like the ones mentioned above which have thousands of employees–many of whom happen to be gay. Again, a significant portion of these workers are either married or waiting for their respective states to legalize it so they can enjoy the legal and financial benefits.
Need further proof that the PR tide has turned on same-sex marriage? We never thought we’d write this, but the big brands named above weren’t the only ones who appealed to the SCOTUS this week: a group of more than 75 prominent political conservatives like former presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and CEO/gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman sent their own brief to the court with the same basic message: embrace gay marriage in the interest of both business and politics.
Will these briefs influence the court’s decision? We don’t know. But in PR terms, they do make clear where some of the country’s most important businesses stand on the issue: all married employees should be treated equally under the law.