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Ben & Jerry's Signs Gay Marriage Amicus Brief; Should You?

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 16, 2014 2:36 PM

Ben & Jerry's has stepped definitively into the gay marriage debate by signing on to an Employers' Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Much like a formal legal petition, the amicus brief states various legal reasons why the High Court should take on the issue of gay marriage and once and for all lay down a consistent rule for same-sex marriage. Ben & Jerry's now joins dozens of other well-known corporations that have signed on to this Employers' Amicus Brief.

Should your company be next to sign?

Ben & Jerry's History of LGBT Inclusion

While it certainly made an impact for the quirky ice cream company, the decision to sign on to the Employers' Amicus Brief was really not surprising for those familiar with Ben & Jerry's. In 2009 when their home state, Vermont, legalized gay marriage, Ben & Jerry's released a Chubby Hubby packaging which included two cartoon grooms on a wedding cake with a rainbow. Further still, Ben & Jerry's has continued to support LGBT causes and marriage equality for the last five years.

So while Chick-Fil-A and others have gained notoriety or even acclaim for opposing gay marriage in some fashion, Ben & Jerry's has largely stayed on the pro-gay marriage side of the debate.

Benefits of Signing On

Although a business owner's personal beliefs may be contrary to the gay marriage movement, the Employers' Amicus Brief makes the following points about why pushing this issue is beneficial:

  • The current patchwork of state marriage laws makes compliance an expensive nightmare;
  • Limiting opportunities based on state marriage laws may scare away gay and straight applicants;
  • A unified system would lower the risk of litigation over taxes or benefits; and
  • Companies won't be forced to affirm discrimination by following state law.

Possible Issues With Employers' Amicus Brief

Maybe you support gay marriage already, but you're worried about alienating your customer base -- or worse yet, your shareholders and benefactors. It is often possible for shareholders to sue company heads for activity they believe damages the company's performance -- including taking legal sides in this gay marriage debate. Unless your corporation has public benefit written into it, CEOs may not be able to sign on to the Employers' Amicus Brief without shareholder approval.

With the issue of gay marriage likely to come before the Supreme Court within the year. It may be wise to make your company's position known now instead of later.

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