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Major Corporations Agree: It’s Time to Do Away with DOMA

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Nov 8, 2011
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A court case against the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that denies same-sex couples any recognition or protection under federal law, has drawn support from a number of major corporations who say in a friend-of-the-court brief that the anti-gay law hurts businesses as well as families.

Anti-gay religious site LifeSiteNews reported on the story in an article that was reprinted at DFW Catholic on Nov. 8.

"Seventy employers are represented in the brief, including Microsoft, Starbucks, Google, NIKE, Levi Strauss and Co., CBS, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Time Warner Cable, Xerox, Zipcar, and Stonyfield Farm," the source article reported. "The cities of New York, Boston, and Cambridge are also represented."

Because DOMA not only denies same-sex families federal recognition but also permits states to ignore the Constitution’s "full faith and credit clause" in the single instance of the marital contract and refuses to honor marriages performed elsewhere in the Union, gay and lesbian families face a legal patchwork that can see them transformed from state-level legally wedded couples to legal strangers simply by crossing a state line.

For national corporations operating across the nation, following such widely disparate laws for families can be a chore. The corporations note in the brief that DOMA’s prejudicial treatment of same-sex families poses "unnecessary cost and administrative complexity" for employers, including tax situations that see married gays and lesbians pay more out of pocket for the privilege of their marriage--a financial burden that heterosexuals do not face. Some companies reimburse their gay employees for these additional costs, but even for those who do not the disparity creates additional paperwork.

The brief "also complains that the law harms workplace morale and a company’s ability to recruit gay employees, causing companies to become ’the face’ of government ’discrimination,’" the source article said.

"Employers are obliged to treat one employee spouse differently from another, when each is married, and each marriage is equally lawful," noted the brief.

"The burden of DOMA’s dual regime is keenly felt by enterprises that conduct operations or do business in jurisdictions that authorize or recognize same-sex marriage," the brief went on to say.

The source article referenced the San Francisco Chronicle in noting that while there are a number of federal suits against the anti-gay law, Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the first to be taken up by an appellate court. The case is likely to head to the Supreme Court after the verdict is delivered.

The Obama Administration announced earlier this year that it would no longer defend DOMA in court because two federal courts have ruled portions of the law to be unconstitutional. Anti-gay Congressional Republicans have hired a private attorney to defend DOMA in federal court at taxpayer expense.

Seattle-based software giant Microsoft, which has extremely gay-friendly policies, put out a statement of its own on the court case, reported the Seattle Times on Nov. 4.

"Microsoft has joined dozens of corporations, organizations and governments in support of a challenge on constitutionality grounds to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA," the Microsoft statement said.

The LifeSiteNews article put the word "marriage" in quotes whenever it appeared in relation to gay and lesbian couples, despite the full state-level legality of same-sex weddings in marriage equality states. This is a common practice among anti-gay "religious" online publications.

The article also referred to DOMA as a "pro-marriage statute," despite the deliberate harm it inflicts upon American married couples and their families, as well as the role the law plays in blocking access to marriage by couples who otherwise would enter into matrimony.

When DOMA was signed 15 years ago, it was the result of a much different political climate. The bill was a response to a court decision in the state of Hawaii that seemed to be opening the door to marriage equality for gay and lesbian families. Since then, 30 states--including Hawaii--have amended their constitutions in order to shut same-sex couples out of marriage parity, but eight states have approved marriage equality. In two of those states--Maine and California--voters yanked marriage rights away from gay families by approving anti-gay ballot initiatives.

But a bare majority of Americans now say that gay and lesbian families ought to be granted relationship rights--a significant shift from the public attitude toward gays and their families in the mid-1990s. Moreover, the Tea Party-led electoral victories that Republicans saw take place in November were driven more by financial stress than by voter concern over social issues.

Indeed, Tea Party leaders indicated last year that they did not wish to see DOMA continue.

Tea Party philosophy embraces limited government, including an emphasis on states’ rights, over social policies that punish GLBT individuals and their families. Conservative bloggers have said that it shouldn’t be a surprise at all that some among the movement support last year’s ruling by federal court judge Joseph L. Tauro striking DOMA down in the Massachusetts ruling.

"Although the likes of Keith Olbermann and Janeane Garofalo smugly attempt to marginalize the Tea Party movement by falsely stating that it is populated by anachronistic racists, homophobes and rednecks, the fact is that many actually are supportive of the recent U.S. District Court decision out of Massachusetts which struck down the federal ban on gay marriage," a July 13, 2010 posting at Before It’s News.com said.

The article referenced a July 13, 2010, article at the Washington Post that noted the contrast between the Tea Party and other conservative groups, the latter of which lost no time in decrying Tauro’s ruling.

Others from the fringe right saw the matter differently. Conservative chat site Free Republic, where gay news is followed closely and discussed with ardor, featured a number of postings on the story.

"One man. One woman. Not two sexual deviants or a freak and his goat," posted one chat participant.

"Good boycott list," another individual posted.

Agreed another, "Thanks for posting the complete list. This one will be easy because there are relatively few companies I would purchase from anyway, mainly Levis, Nike, New Balance, even Scorchbucks (which I avoid because their coffee sucks, except that my daughter likes to go there, but now I will refuse)."

"Sort of tells you how wide spread the intimidation of the radical Homosexual agenda is," another wrote. "It never ceases to amaze me how a group of people who only have a neurotic desire for unnatural sex in common can become so powerful."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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