Just last week the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled unanimously that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional – another indication that the Supreme Court will settle at least parts of the “gay marriage” issue.
Interestingly, 48 businesses, including such titans as Microsoft, Google, Nike and Starbucks, along with 22 law firms and trade associations, filed a friend of the court brief in support of overturning DOMA. These businesses are on record in support of “gay rights” generally and, in many cases, “gay marriage” specifically.
I know why employers care about their employees, or should care about them. But why in the world do corporations care about the politics of homosexuality? Well, the answer is simple. It’s all about the money. According to this legal brief, these businesses argue, “because marriages are celebrated and recognized under state law, a federal law withholding marital benefits from some lawful marriages, but not others, creates a non-uniform rule.”
These businesses claim that workplace benefits and a workplace ethos of transparent fairness are critical to their enterprises. They claim DOMA strains employer/employee relationships by forcing employers in these same-sex marriage states to create “workarounds” to provide benefits for homosexual couples given automatically to married couples. They say all of these “workarounds” also cost significant amounts of money in administrative burdens. And they claim that DOMA forces employers to affirm discrimination they regard as counter to their corporate missions.
They’re saying businesses in a state, such as Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal under state law, are burdened by a federal law prohibiting federal marital benefits – the burden being that those businesses are forced to treat their “married” employees unequally and the companies incur extra costs to balance the interests of all employees.
All of this posturing, of course, is politics at its worst – in this case, homosexual advocates using the judiciary to achieve what they can’t through the voice of the people.
It’s also business at its worst. I suspect that most of the companies named in the brief have corporate policies welcoming same-sex relationships. And that’s their right as private companies. But to now argue that a federal law passed in 1996 is unfair because state laws were passed no earlier than 2004 is putting the cart before the horse. The state law created the inequity, not the federal law. DOMA was passed eight years before Massachusetts passed same-sex marriage.
The claim of burden is disingenuous when these companies knew what the law was for eight years and then used their political power to create an incongruity in the law. In that sense, the corporate burden is self-imposed, and in a world of free ideas and free markets those companies should pay the price for their private personnel decisions.
Locally, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce claims to support certain “gay rights” as long as those rights make money – evidently, it reflects a welcoming business environment for the state of Utah. It seems that a person’s private sexuality is somehow good for business in the heart of Mormondom.
To me, the most interesting aspect of these claims is how these political shenanigans in the name of healthy work environments and personal rights create a legal conclusion only resulting in redefining marriage. The Salt Lake City Council was once told that its anti-discrimination ordinances were fair and did “not do harm to the institution of marriage.” And now we see from this appellate decision how wrong that local opinion was. We now can see clearly that any “gay right” is simply a prelude to redefining marriage.
Everyone knows where this scenario leads – no part of which includes a welcoming business environment.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.