Four Top 50 Companies Sign Amicus Brief Supporting Marriage Equality

By Albert Lin

Photo by Fibonacci Blue

Four DiversityInc Top 50 companies are among 23 employers that have signed on to an amicus brief in support of same-gender marriage.

The four are Cummins (No. 15), Marriott International (No. 16), Target (No. 22) and WellPoint (No. 29). In addition, Pfizer, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies, also joined.

The brief has been submitted as part of an appeal that will be heard on Aug. 26 in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago regarding the legality of same-gender-marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. The court initially was scheduled to hear separate cases when federal judges overturned bans in both states, but it combined the two cases into one.

The brief explains the business impact of same-gender-marriage bans.

“State laws and constitutions denying marriage to gay and lesbian citizens are bad for our businesses,” the brief’s summary says. “We are hampered in our efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible, placing us at a competitive disadvantage. Our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction.”

The brief goes on to say: “Same-sex couples should have the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples. Married same-sex couples should receive the same benefits and responsibilities appurtenant to marriage as any other couple. We recognize the importance of that equality to our employees, and we have seen the real world, positive impact that fostering diversity and inclusion has on our productivity andperformance, just as we have seen the harm that denial of equality causes our businesses.

“The district court opinions in the above-captioned cases help establish a uniform principle that all couples share in the right to marry. Reversal would serve only to prolong an unproductive, inequitable, and unjust status quo. We respectfully and strongly urge the Court to affirm.”

In a piece announcing the amicus brief, on a Target internal-messaging site, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jodee Kozlak wrote, “At Target, we have long offered comprehensive, competitive benefits to our LGBT team members and their families, often above what is legally required. We continue to do so today because we believe doing so is right for our team and for our business. But current laws—in places like Wisconsin and Indiana that are addressed in this brief—make it difficult to attract and retain talent. These disparate laws also create confusing and complicated benefits challenges across multiple states.

“We believe that everyone—all of our team members and our guests—deserves to be treated equally. And at Target we are proud to support the LGBT community.”

Target is one of DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune called Target’s move “unusual” given that almost all of Minneapolis’ largest companies remained neutral on a 2012 state referendum that would have banned same-gender marriage in Minnesota. Perhaps referencing that, Kozlak wrote: “[Our leadership team] agreed that now is the right time to more directly share our views on this issue.”

Of the biggest Minneapolis-based corporations, only General Mills (No. 20 in the DiversityInc Top 50) opposed the ban. The referendum did not pass, and the state legislature legalized same-gender marriage less than a year later.

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