The Business Case for Marriage Equality

Jul 31, 2014


Marriage Equality Business

For nearly 23 years, social responsibility has been one of our core business values at Oliver Russell. In our business practice, we help clients with corporate social responsibility. And as a certified B Corporation, we believe in diversity in both the marketplace and the workplace.

So we eagerly responded in the affirmative when invited to join an amicus brief that was filed this week in a marriage equality case currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

This is a Business Problem

Certainly, the issue of marriage equality is about social justice. But it’s also a practical business problem.

At the root of being a purpose-driven organization, we’re a business—we create profits and we use them to reinvest in our business, reward shareholders and employees, and create positive social impact in our community. We’re a people business—professional services—and one of our biggest competitive challenges is recruiting talented people and keeping them. Our mission to create social impact through meaningful work gives us a powerful selling tool in this area, but the inability of an employee to marry his or her same-sex spouse creates burdens for our business in this area and others.

This inability to marry same-sex spouses contributes to a lack of certainty and uniformity in the business community, and it also adds corporate administrative and financial burdens. Here in Idaho and elsewhere, it hinders our ability to recruit the best and the brightest—would you move your life and love and career to a state that discriminates against you?

Dollars and cents aside, perhaps the biggest slug in the gut for us is that it requires our business to uphold and affirm discrimination that runs squarely counter to our values and corporate mission.

This is a big AND small business issue.

The amicus brief was filed on July 25, 2014. We are proud to join with 27 employers and organizations that are working to change this in the states of the Ninth Circuit that do not allow or recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. These states are Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho.

We join heavy big-hitting corporations in signing this brief: Alcoa, Amazon, CBS Corporation, Facebook, Intel Corporation, Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, Levi Strauss & Co, and Starbucks Coffee Company, among others. Here in Idaho, Landmark Impressions, Stevens, Inc., and the City of Boise have also signed the brief.

A Quick Primer on Amicus Briefs

Amicus briefs are also known as “friend of the court actions.” These enable a person, or in this case a business, with a strong view on a legal action—but not a party to the action—to petition the court to file a brief expressing its own views. “Amicus curiae” briefs are often filed in appeals concerning matters of broad public interest, such as civil rights cases. They can raise aspects of a case the court might otherwise miss, as in this instance—the business problems occasioned by the existing law.

Here in Idaho, these amicus briefs were filed on behalf of employers and employer organizations in Sue Latta, et al. v. ID Governor C. L. Butch Otter, on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.

Because these states in the Ninth Circuit prevent same-sex couples from getting married, employers must treat couples as single persons under federal and state law. And because these states refuse to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples from other states, employers can be presented with obstacles when operating across multiple states.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that we believe marriage equality is the smart thing to do from a business standpoint. We also believe it squares with our company’s values. We’re only too happy to be a “friend of the court” on this action.

Hats off to Bingham McCutchen LLP, which is serving as pro bono counsel on this effort. If you would like to learn more about this case, you can follow its history and developments here.

Thumbnail image: CC Joe Gratz