Microsoft, Apple, and Google agree: The federal ban against gay marriage must go

Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other tech giants rarely agree on anything. But they all agree on this: The Supreme Court should rule that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which for federal purposes defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco, eBay, Intel, and Twitter were among 200 companies and nearly 100 other entities, such as city governments, that signed a friend of the court brief that will be part one of the suits against DOMA that the Supreme Court will hear in March.

There are many reasons DOMA should be struck down, the brief argues. But Sabin Willett, a partner with the Boston law firm Bingham McCutchen, put them most succinctly in a single sentence. He told the Boston Globe: "DOMA is bad for business."

The brief itself, as you might imagine, goes into a great more detail. (You can read it in its entirety here.)

The businesses are all either located or operate in states where same-sex marriage is legal. They argue that the conflict between state and federal laws regarding marriage makes it more costly and difficult to operate because of confusing bureaucratic tangles and snafus. The brief says of DOMA:

It puts us, as employers, to unnecessary cost and administrative complexity, and regardless of our business or professional judgment forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, explained it this way to the New York Times:

"We feel it's critical for the court to understand the burdens that this law imposes on both employers and employees. DOMA is not just a piece of social legislation, but it also has very practical costs for the business community and the people they employ."

And Bernadette Harrigan, assistant vice president in the law department of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, which signed the brief, told the New York Times that the law needs to keep up with the country's cultural changes:

"It's 2013, the face of the nation is changing and to be competitive, to win in business today, you need to change with the demographics of the nation."

The current Supreme Court is normally pro-business and anti-government regulation. So logic would dictate it would strike down DOMA. But the court is also culturally reactionary, so it's tough to know which way it will go. But many prominent Republicans -- a number of whom previously opposed same-sex marriage -- are signing onto another brief asking that the court strike down the law. That could provide cover for the conservatives on the court to kill DOMA.

Seeing the biggest tech heavyweights unite against DOMA is a welcome reminder that the tech industry in general is forward-looking and innovative not just when it comes to technology and business, but in cultural issues as well. 

As for those who think that somehow same-sex marriage violates traditional values, I suggest that they scroll through the list of companies who have signed the brief against it. The list is in alphabetical order. Head towards the bottom, and you'll find this one: Walt Disney Company, the ultimate family values business. If that's not a sign that same-sex marriage is in keeping with traditional American family values, I don't know what is.

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