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30 Companies Sign Pro-Gay Marriage Amicus Brief: Good Idea?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on September 16, 2014 8:56 AM

Gay marriage is a pretty divisive issue in this country, though it is becoming less so as more states legalize same-sex nuptials. And corporations, typically, steer far away from controversial topics, for obvious reasons.

It is refreshing then, to see Ben & Jerry's join 29 other companies in an "Employers' Amicus Brief" filed in support of same-sex marriage. The brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, and to establish a uniform national rule that respects the rights of same-sex couples to tie the knot.

Who else joined them on the brief? And will there be any negative business consequences?

The Big List

What companies took a public, pro-gay marriage stance by joining the amicus brief? Here is the full list, which includes startups, major retailers, banks, and more:

  • Alcoa Inc. 
  • Amazon.com, Inc.
  • Aspen Skiing Company
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • Bloomberg L.P.
  • CBS Corporation
  • Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Cummins Inc.
  • Deutsche Bank AG
  • Eastern Bank Corporation
  • eBay, Inc.
  • General Electric Company
  • Intel Corporation
  • Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC
  • Levi Strauss & Company
  • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • NIKE, Inc.
  • Oracle America, Inc.
  • Outerwall Inc.
  • Pfizer Inc.
  • Qualcomm Incorporated
  • Staples, Inc.
  • State Street Corporation
  • SunLife Financial (U.S.) Services Company
  • Support.com
  • Symantec
  • Target
  • United Therapeutics Corporation
  • Viacom

A Good Idea?

Publicly traded corporations, which many of these businesses are, have a duty to shareholders to maximize profits. This is why public benefit corporations, a relatively new corporate form, are increasingly popular. But it's far from certain that taking a stance on gay marriage will have an impact on the bottom line.

The immediate example that springs to mind is Chick-Fil-A, which actually took a public anti-gay marriage stance a couple of years ago. While there were protests by pro-gay marriage activists, noted conservative Mike Huckabee declared August 1, 2012, to be Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, which led to record sales for the day, recounts The Huffington Post. Overall, Chick-Fil-A's sales were up 12 percent that year, though not all of that can be attributed to the controversy as the restaurant chain was (and still is) growing either way.

An anti-equality stance didn't seem to hurt Chick-Fil-A. And a pro-equality stance likely won't hurt any of these 30 companies, especially since, according to Gallup's polls, popular support has shifted in favor of gay marriage.

Plus, not only are these companies too large to be affected by any minor boycott that would come their way by a few angry conservatives, but Ben & Jerry's has been a strong advocate of same-sex marriage rights for years -- any harm for them has likely already come and gone.

So, should your company start picking sides on controversial issues? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter @FindLawLP.

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