By Zack Jenkins
The sordid past of anti-gay stances for national corporations is slowly fading away as major corporations are finding the position supporting gay marriage more favorable than it was.
Companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, Google, Nike, Time Warner Cable, Xerox, etc. have adopted official stances in support of equal rights legislation. They each made claims in the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, where 48 companies signed a brief arguing against the law, claiming it negatively affected their businesses.
These companies claimed that DOMA, defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, is both expensive to comply with and forces businesses to treat their employees (gay and straight) differently.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told a concerned shareholder “any decision of this magnitude has to be made with great thoughtfulness. I would assure you that a senior team at Starbucks discussed this and it was, to be candid with you, not something that was a difficult decision for us … Since we made that decision, there has not been any dissolution whatsoever in our business.”
According to Politico, 25 corporate executives lobbied New York legislators to approve same-sex marriage last year. In January of this year, corporate tech giants flexed their muscles in support of gay marriage in Washington state. Since both of those states voted to approve same sex marriage (Washington beginning on June 7), it would seem that other states (like North Carolina) would do the same, right? Not necessarily.
The North Carolina referendum that passed by a double-digit margin to strictly define marriage between one man and one woman, and nullify all unions otherwise, did so with no corporate voices officially opposing it. According to The New York Times, all Fortune 500 companies in the state stayed on the sidelines during the last month leading up to the vote.
“A lot of businesses were getting into a pro same-sex marriage position,” said Jonathan Baker, director of the Corporate Fairness Project for the National Organization for Marriage. “Our goal was to support the other side of that … Marriage isn’t terribly pertinent to their business.”
Turns out, hate and discrimination aren’t terribly marketable in the United States. The new face of anti-LGBT lobbying lies in convincing states, voters and companies to not take a position. Where five years ago social conservative groups like American Family Association created systematic campaigns against companies like Home Depot and Ford that supported gay rights organizations, corporate activism has changed.
“I don’t think you see any corporations taking stances against equality,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, a marriage and civil rights advocacy group. “You’re either taking a stance in favor of equality or you don’t take a stance at all. We’ve certainly defeated our opponents with respect to getting corporations to take an anti-gay stance.”
Some major companies have been very vocal in support of LGBT equality while others have remained tight lipped on the issue. Though corporations have been increasingly supportive in the past couple years, November will be the biggest test to the waters: Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington all vote on statewide ballot initiatives to rule in favor of same sex marriage. LGBT advocates and lobbyists look to continue receiving corporate support and money to continue turning the tide in America.