Microsoft joins the chorus of support for marriage equality on the grounds of business competitiveness.
On Thursday, Microsoft and five other corporations (Northwest employers Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc.) based in Washington sent an open letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, expressing their support of Senate Bill 6239 and House Bill 2516, both of which seek to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Washington would be the seventh state to have full marriage equality following Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Microsoft’s official blog stated that “as other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families…Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples”.
This is not Microsoft’s first foray into marriage equality. Late last year, Microsoft and 70 other companies (including Google, Xerox, CBS, Nike, Starbucks, Zipcar and Levi Strauss & Co.) filed an Amicus brief with the US Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which, since coming into effect in 1996, has defined marriage (by the federal government) as the legal union between one man and one woman.
In July 2011, New York became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriages, but perhaps more importantly, it was the first “big” state to do so. The New York law was seen by marriage equality proponents as the first step in an eventual snowball effect of broader support nationally. Even former US Representative Bob Barr, the original sponsor of DOMA, has apologized for his involvement with the legislation and favors the proposed bill for the Respect for Marriage Act which seeks to overturn DOMA and recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level.
It will only be a matter of time before more states (another California referendum anyone?) join in, driven by both economics and ethics. If Washington steps up and recognizes what the majority of Americans already support, it will only be a matter of time before another Washington follows suit.