From Goldman Sachs to Microsoft – corporate support for gay civil rights puts pressure on backwards politicians

Support for gay marriage by companies as varied as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and Starbucks is gathering steam to change policies in states that bar same-sex couples from tying the knot.

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions on June 26 heartened supporters of the cause while showing an increased willingness of business to back the effort. In one case, more than 200 companies signed a brief against a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples. Five years ago, only a handful had lobbied against California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages, the target of the high court’s other decision…

State legislators stand to feel the heat as more businesses speak out against laws in states including Texas, Florida and Michigan that recognize only heterosexual marriage. While fewer than half the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 are based in states that allow gays to wed, most already have policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Companies do have the choice where they locate, where they set up shop,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding faculty director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley. Local policies on sexual orientation “will eventually become part of the choice process…”

Goldman Sachs and Expedia are among businesses gearing up to support a federal bill to prevent workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent include orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and more than 60 percent offer domestic partner health benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Companies moved ahead on providing health benefits for same-sex couples and adopting nondiscrimination rules since the 1990s just as Congress went in the opposite direction to approve the federal government’s rejection of gay marriage in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Now, corporate America is pushing for uniform laws that protect against workplace discrimination, said Edith Hunt, Goldman Sachs’s chief diversity officer…

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What’s achieved in Austin is in spite of cretins like Rick Perry

Kevin Johns, who heads the economic development office for the city of Austin, Texas, can attest to how a more liberal stance on social issues can help lure companies. Johns makes trips to California, New York and Chicago to tout Austin’s support of domestic-partner benefits and tolerant attitude toward sexual orientation, even though it’s the capital city of a state whose governor, Rick Perry, is an outspoken conservative. Austin has reeled in investment from Apple, EBay and IBM.

“We’re trying to attract the most creative, smartest people regardless of their orientation, color, sex or anything,” Johns said. “It’s been very successful here…”

The corporate support for same-sex couples, combined with the high acceptance among young people, could make it costly for states to buck the trend, said Richard Florida, author of the best-selling book “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Higher-paying jobs that require more education and creativity will gravitate toward those regions of the country that are more open and tolerant, he said…

The movement has picked up speed because people look back on those who opposed civil rights for blacks during the 1960s and now want to be on the right side of history on this issue, Florida said.

Reactionary corporations will continue to favor backwards states with backwards governance. Exxon-Mobil just loves Rick Perry and the state of Texas. Tech-smart companies won’t consider states like Minnesota and Ohio run by political hacks who devote every waking moment to making life worse for working families.

There are 29 states where employees can legally be fired simply for being gay. Couple those with Republican/Tea Party/conservative ideologues in charge and you found yourself a state that isn’t growing jobs on the basis of well-educated creative talent. States mired in the style of 19th Century class wars – unconscious of the world’s new directions.

Even changes in fixed costs of managing and administering insurance are positively affected by the death of DOMA. There’s no reason for smart corporations to continue to put up with additional and costly regulations just to satisfy parochial politicians and bigoted voters. They will go where they can grow a 21st Century business.

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