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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 10:16 AM

Corporations urge Supreme Court to embrace gay marriage


(Reuters) - More than 200 businesses will urge the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to strike down a federal law that restricts the definition of marriage to heterosexual unions.

Lawyers representing the businesses said they would file a brief in the case.

Companies including Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, Starbucks Corp and Pfizer Inc are among those that joined the brief. Others included Aetna Inc, Amazon.com, Inc and Citigroup Inc.

Thomson Reuters Corp is another signatory. The Reuters news agency is part of Thomson Reuters.

The companies want the Supreme Court to strike down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Separately, lawyers representing another group of employers, including some of the same companies, had said already that they planned to file a brief on Thursday in a related case that questions a California law that bans gay marriage.

The two cases are to be argued before the Supreme Court on March 26 and 27.

In the brief filed on Wednesday, attorney Sabin Willett wrote that DOMA "requires that employers treat one employee differently from another, when each is married, and each marriage is equally lawful."

DOMA does not create any uniformity nationwide, Willett said, because 12 states in total either authorize same-sex marriage or recognize marriages that have been performed in other states.

That creates a burden for employers, particularly those who do business nationwide, he added.

Willett also wrote that the law forces companies to discriminate, sometimes in contravention of their own internal policies and local laws, when dealing with healthcare plans and other benefits.

"We must do all of this in states, counties and cities that prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and demand equal treatment of all married individuals," he added.

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Response to RKP5637 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 10:56 AM

1. What's the driving force behind this? I thought they were against it because of insurance rates.


Am I missing something here?

I'm fully in favor of equal rights for everyone, including marriage, but my impression was that large corporations didn't want gay marriage to be legal because then they would have to offer health insurance to more spouses and dependents. I'm really glad they're behind it, but I have to admit I'm confused.

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Response to Gorp (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:08 AM

2. I think that was the initial thought, but then as various states allowed/denied or someplace in

between, it became very complex for them to administer. Also, the general public (I think) became more accepting of marriage.

The large company I worked in allowed insurance coverage for couples for years. One could designate a significant other their partner and have full insurance coverage for them. It was a CA based hi-tech company. It was not free at all, you paid additional coverage under the master group plan for the corporation, the same rates as for a heterosexual couple.

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Response to RKP5637 (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:17 AM

3. I know, but since the employers contribute to said rates they take a hit for each new member.


That was at least the argument I've heard all along as to why corporations don't want to extend benefits to same-sex couples. It wouldn't make sense for the rates to be different from hetero couples. We'll see how it pans out.

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Response to Gorp (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:16 PM

4. Yep, it'll be interesting. It sure is a major step forward it seems! I was surprised by this too!

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