1. Opinion

Editorial: Momentum for marriage equality

Published Mar. 3, 2013

Mirroring the rest of the nation, businesses and high-profile Republicans are moving toward wider acceptance of same-sex marriage, just as President Barack Obama has done. When two landmark cases are heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, powerful conservative and establishment voices will be lining up in support of marriage equality alongside the White House. All in all, most promising signs.

There is a business case to be made for striking down the federal law that bars federal benefits to same-sex couples who have been legally married. It has been laid out in an amicus brief joined by more than 200 companies, including major corporations such as Apple, Citigroup, Nike, Alcoa and Google. Corporate America has weighed into the case that challenges the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, telling the U.S. Supreme Court that the statute is an unjustified business expense and burden.

Not only does DOMA force companies to treat their married employees differently "when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees," the brief states, but it adds "unnecessary cost and administrative complexity" to tax and benefits administration and other personnel matters. For instance, the fair market value of an employee's health care benefits for their spouse is not subject to federal taxation, unless the benefit is going to a spouse of the same sex, the brief explains.

This complexity will only grow as more states are added to the nine states and the District of Columbia that have legalized same-sex marriage.

In the case before the high court asking justices to overturn California's Proposition 8, more than 100 Republicans and conservative stalwarts have signed an amicus brief in favor of a constitutional right for gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. The effort has been organized by Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Among the big names in the coalition are Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator; Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense; Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah; and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

This group of Republicans is at the forefront of the kind of change the party will have to make to attract younger voters who overwhelmingly support the right of same-sex couples to marry. Pro-marriage equality Republicans make a conservative case that marriage creates stronger family bonds and helps couples to rely on each other rather than look to the state for support.

An amicus brief from the Obama administration in the California case tells the court that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is based on "impermissible prejudice" and violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection. The administration says DOMA also is unconstitutional.

The tide is moving in one direction, toward the legal approval of marriage equality. As recognized by powerful people and institutions who are now making a public stand, it is a civil right whose time has come.


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