Is Gay Marriage Good for Business?

Discussion
Feb 28, 2013

Hundreds of U.S. businesses are coming out in support of same-sex marriages in friend-of-the-court briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in two separate cases dealing with the issue next month.

Abercrombie & Fitch, Amazon.com, Apple, Barnes & Noble, eBay, Facebook, Google, Levi Strauss, Nike, Office Depot and Starbucks are among the companies signing on to the friend-of-the-court briefs.

The first case involves Edith Windsor who is challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. She had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after the death of her spouse Thea Clara Spyer. None of the fees would have applied in a heterosexual marriage.

The second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, involves a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages.

According to Fortune, which obtained a copy of the brief in the second case, companies are arguing that overturning Prop. 8 is "a business imperative." It asserts the law in California as well as bans in 40 other states put businesses at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to "recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented people" who can go to other states or countries to work and be afforded the same rights as straight couples.

Is overturning bans on same-sex marriages the right thing to do for business?

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19 Comments on "Is Gay Marriage Good for Business?"


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Mark Heckman
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Other than some adjustments needed to “household” same sex couples in the shopper database, I really don’t see it effecting the retail side of the business at all.

On the expense side, retailers would need to understand any impact gay marriage would have on benefits, etc. The points made from businesses who advocate that not having legal same-sex marriage in the states they operate impede their ability to attract talent must be real or they would not be sounding their opinion in favor.

Politically and socially, I still see this as a state’s rights decision that should not be mandated by a court federal or otherwise. If states and their residents and business see gay marriage in a favorable light, they will vote for it, as some states have done. I think we call that democracy, as unprogressive as that sounds.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

The bigger question might be “Is NOT being on record as supporting gay marriage bad for business?”

The protagonists in this debate are those in favor of gay marriage. And it is the protagonists in public debates who tend to go on offense through boycotts, protests and media. So, why risk it?

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

It depends on the business. For companies like Chick-fil-A, its a smart business move to be against it. You can’t drive past a Chick-fil-A without thinking about how their stance caused them to have their biggest one day sale record.

We must always remember it’s not about right or wrong, for or against, it’s about the dollars and whatever brings in the most money, then that is the position you back. Each business needs to evaluate their own situation and determine which stance will be the most profitable. Perhaps no stance at all is the best move.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

People do not choose to be gay anymore than they choose to have a disability. It is surprising that a choice to support the right for adults to want to love and commit themselves to one another for life in marriage is controversial. Why not support the right to have access to talented employees and profitable consumers?

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

I guess the first question is, “Is it the right thing to do, period?”

If it’s the right thing to do then whether or not it’s good for business isn’t as critical. Overturning slavery, for example, was the right thing to do, but it played hell with the southern mercantile industry, so obviously wasn’t “the right thing to do for business.”

The answer to that question is, “Yes.”

Now, will it make things easier or harder for business? Offhand, I’d say, easier.

Making a business the arbiter of what does, or does not, constitute a viable domestic partnership is fairly complex. Making legally sanctioned marriages (heterosexual or gay) the standard for determining spousal benefits, for example, makes everything immensely easier.

The other, perhaps more subtle point, is that gay, bisexual and/or transgendered people represent a significant number of current and potential employees and customers. Alignment on this critical issue may have any number of positive benefits.

Besides, how can it be “bad business” to be on the side of true love?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 2 months ago

The public good as it benefits business is in the protection of every individual’s private rights. Time and circumstances appear to change what’s right and, in self interest, business goes with the flow.

Perhaps what Clarence Darrow said when debating Prohibition is appropriate, “There is no such thing as rights anyhow. It is a question of whether you can put it over. In any legal or practical sense, whatever is, is a ‘right.'”

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Ryan said it all, better than I ever could.

Doug Fleener
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Do what’s right for your employees, and you’ll be doing what’s right for business.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Ryan is dead on target. Business can not be hurt; but it can certainly be helped. The gay community has disposable income. The business world knows that.

Jack Pansegrau
Guest
Jack Pansegrau
9 years 2 months ago

I also agree with Ryan and would only add—this is not a ‘state by state, State’s Rights’ issue—that’s how slavery was viewed prior to 1863. And besides, I’m sure many gay couples want not only the benefits and privileges of their individual states but also under Federal Law, including inheritance and even simple things like being able to file a Joint Federal Tax Return.

So as Ryan says, how can it be ‘bad business’ to be on the side of True Love?

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

There are plenty of us who remember the shattering of old norms that kept people of color from public universities and lunch counters. Now we have an opportunity to sweep away a different set of prejudices. Will we take it?

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

It’s not only the right thing for business, it’s just the.right.thing.to.do. Period.

It’s 100% a civil rights issue, which is the point of the lawsuit.

Merle Zamansky-Coen
Guest
Merle Zamansky-Coen
9 years 2 months ago

It is the right thing to do “period.”

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
9 years 2 months ago

The best position is no position. Retailers are the buyers and sellers of goods. They should follow existing law and change policy when directed to by those elected to that purpose, not taking a position on what many believe to be a moral standard established by thousands of years of accepted practice. The consensus seems to be shifting to accepting some form of civil union. That is fine, but it would be prudent to stay out of the controversy if you are a publicly held company, and let the citizenry sort it out via the ballot box.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Amazing times; it’s ok to have automatic weapons, but not ok for certain Americans to have equal rights. Anyway . .

It’s essential for companies to be for same sex marriage in order to attract ALL the best talent, not just some of it. All things equal, why not move to a state that supports SSM (New York) over others that don’t (Texas) if you’re in fact GLBT? It’s a good tool to use against competition that is in the dark ages.

Besides, who’d be dumb enough to say that they’re not interested in hiring from a group that makes up over 12% of the population?? (rhetorical)

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Yes. Our country strives for a blind justice that does not afford special treatment to anyone because of their race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. Business should be the same.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
9 years 2 months ago

With regard to Mrs Windsor, her problem would be more easily solved by repealing the death tax, period. I believe, however, that it was Thea Clara Spyer’s estate that paid the tax. If a court, IRS, etc. did not recognize Mrs Windsor as a spouse, she could not be compelled to pay any tax.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

Gay marriage ought to be legal in these United States of America where people are free. And please do not tell me that “religion” is the reason, or a good excuse, to be homophobic or prejudiced. Using religious beliefs for justification is simply too convenient and frankly irrelevant in a free country where we separate church and state. A certain amount of people are born “gay” the same as a certain amount of people are born “heterosexual.” I have yet to figure out why some folks are so fearful of this fact of life.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 2 months ago

I look at Ryan’s answer and I look at David Livingston’s response and I know which side I am on. Count me on Ryan’s side on this debate. I am not Pollyanna-ish and think that “doing right” ethically, morally,and legally won’t have significant business repercussions at times. However, in issues of human rights, dignity, and compassion – I tend to have blinders on and only see one side of the issue.

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