Marriage equality is proving good for New York business

Michael Bloomberg, Christine C. Quinn, Mario Cuomo march in 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Many New Yorkers and thousands of visitors this weekend may make last month’s Gay Pride celebrations seem tepid. Beginning Sunday, New York’s same-sex couples will become eligible for marriage licenses. Tens of thousands of those couples are expected to marry over the next few years, and their vows will resonate across America…

New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city leaders must be cheering the economic shot in the arm as hotels, restaurants, caterers, florists and legions of vendors welcome the wedding and honeymoon brigades. Some estimate nearly $400 million in revenues for the state over the next three years.

These rewards are also the result of changing tides among American corporations and employers over recent decades. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage legislation was endorsed not only by major corporations like Xerox and Google but by scores of smaller business owners across the state.

First, many employers already “get it.” Beginning in 1982 with New York’s Village Voice, thousands of employers have added spousal-equivalent work benefits including health coverage for their workers with same-sex partners. Today, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies do so…

If employers give equal benefits to same-sex couples, why worry about marital status? Ask employers in New Jersey, where same-sex civil unions are the law instead. Civil unions, domestic partnerships and other makeshift legal arrangements offer some measure of legal protection. But real-world experience shows that they do not measure up in crucial ways.

“Marriage lite” not only creates a social apartheid among families, it opens significant gaps, confusion and conflicts that businesses confront in areas such as survivor benefits, pensions and bankruptcies, along with disparate tax treatment at the state and federal level.

Keeping it simple and consistent are important to businesses…Furthermore, administering payrolls and maintaining accurate, timely benefits and tax withholding procedures can strain any employer. When you add the complexity that accompanies different marital and tax status for many couples, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and workplace to workplace, it is another unacceptable and costly burden on business.

Sooner rather than later, chambers of commerce will recognize that their best interests are served by the simplicity, uniformity and cost savings that come with marriage equality across the nation…

Part of today’s political dichotomies is the decline in principles and standards of traditional organizations of all types. Churches, political parties – local and national, trade organizations and national business representatives like the US Chamber of Commerce have walked away from any pretense of representing a broad base.

Just as fundamentalist churches less and less often engage in dialogue with the broad reach of Christianity, the US Chamber of Commerce long ago turned its back on small business. In truth there are whole segments of American commerce ignored or deliberately affronted by the entrenched leadership of the Chamber. If you ain’t from Big Oil or Pharma or Insurance and Finance – just punch their meal ticket; but, don’t waste anyone’s time with issues outside of extraction taxes or capital gains.

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