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Three Reasons Big Companies are Advocating for the Repeal of DOMA

By Melissa J. Anderson

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act. The act is designed to repeal the 1994 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. Not only does the act prevent same-sex couples married in one state from having that marriage recognized in another that does not allow same-sex marriage, but it also creates a number of issues for same-sex couples immigrating to the United States.

The vote in the senate comes at the heels of a huge declaration against DOMA by big business last week, when 70 companies, firms, organizations, and municipalities filed a brief against the act. The list includes names like BNY Mellon, CBS, Google, Microsoft, and Xerox.

The companies signing the brief said they want DOMA repealed. Here are three reasons why.

1. The Cost

According to the companies that signed the brief, not only does DOMA force them to treat employees unequally, but it also comes at a cost – and they don’t want to have to pay it. The Advocate reported:

“The companies say DOMA ‘forces’ them ‘to investigate the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees and then to single out those employees with a same-sex spouse.’ For example, HIPPA laws usually consider marriage a ‘qualifying event’ that automatically enrolls a spouse in an employee’s health insurance. Companies now spend time and money weeding out any gay employees who get married.”

They say the extra administrative costs are unfair and impact HR, payroll, and benefits administration. They also muck up IT and bookkeeping systems so much that some companies have to hire compliance experts to fix the issues created by DOMA.

2. The Employees

By signing the brief and showing support for gay and lesbian employees, companies are able to brand themselves as progressive employers – and this support is well received by LGBT employees and potential employees.

It attracts high performing straight individuals as well – especially those of the millennial generation – who want to see their companies treating employees fairly. Out & Equal Workplace Advocates recently released the results of a survey showing that 74% of straight respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “an employee should be judged on performance rather than sexual orientation.”

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates Executive Director Selisse Berry commented, “In today’s challenging economic times, it is clear that Americans support workplace anti-discrimination protections that cover all workers, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, so that they are evaluated fairly for the work they do.”

The companies signing the list are working to portray themselves as fair and supportive employers – and that’s something to most employees value.

3. Clients and Customers

The LGBT audience – reportedly a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars – is known for its intense brand loyalty.

In fact, a study by Witeck-Combes Communications and Harris Interactive [PDF] released this summer showed 87 % of LGBT consumers say they are likely to support brands known for providing equal workplace benefits for gay and lesbian employees. And, the study says, 49% said they were “extremely or very likely” to consider them.

Wes Combs, President of Witeck‐Combs Communications explained, “Even in a struggling economy, LGBT consumers express an unmistakable and stronger sense of brand loyalty to companies that support their community.” He continued, “Maintaining this trusting and sensitive relationship requires a sustained effort to incorporate diversity, fairness, and inclusion into a company’s DNA.”

But it’s not just LGBT consumers who can be influenced by a company’s decision to support LGBT employees. According to the study, “three out of four (75 %) heterosexual adults agree they are likely to consider a brand that is known to provide equal workplace benefits for all of their employees, compared to 70 % in January 2007.”

Yes, support for LGBT individuals is rising – and brands are paying attention. By supporting the repeal of DOMA, they are likely to be looked upon favorably by clients or customers – LGBT or otherwise.

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