California's businesses assess the competitive price of the state's bigotry

I'm posting today in advance of this morning's oral argument at the Supreme Court for Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case involving California's ban on same sex marriage. Assuming something doesn't come up at work at that hour, I'm planning to listen in on C-SPAN Radio.

California flagThere is so much good writing and good coverage on the case, I will be reading more than adding substantively to the main thread. But I did want to call out some passages from the brief submitted on behalf of Adobe, Akamai, Alaska Airlines, Apple, Cisco, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, HP, LinkedIn, McKinstry, Qualcomm, REI, and 86 other companies, all (I think) with substantial business operations and employees in the State of California.

These businesses want the Supreme Court to know that bigotry is bad for their ability to compete from operations based in California.

The key point in the brief, I think, is that California's Proposition 8 puts California employers at a disadvantage to employers in states that don't demean gay and lesbian couples:

"Recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry is more than just a constitutional issue. It is a business imperative. By singling out a group for less favorable treatment, Proposition 8 impedes businesses from achieving the market’s ideal of efficient operations—particularly in recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented people who are in the best position to operate at their highest capacity. Amici are competing domestically and internationally with companies inside and outside the United States in places where all couples, regardless of whether they are of the same sex, are afforded equal access to marriage. Those of us operating in states like California face a competitive disadvantage . . .

"It is undisputed that gay men and lesbians suffer a daily gratuitous insult by their relegation to second-class status—an insult that negatively affects their productivity in the workplace and thus indirectly impairs their employers. Businesses suffer a more direct injury than that, however. Because domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriages, supra at 9-11, it should come as no surprise that loving, committed same-sex couples may choose to relocate to states where their relationships are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve as marriage. Take, for example, a graduating engineering student near the top of her class at MIT. She is interested in putting her skills to work for one of the major technology companies in Silicon Valley and finds the perfect job that utilizes all of her skills, talents, and education. The difficulty is that she is also in a long-term, committed, same-sex relationship and she expects that she and her significant other will soon marry and start a family. With those goals in mind, however, the couple cannot move to California (or, at least, would have no interest in moving to California) because they will not be able to get married in California or have their marriage from another state recognized in California. So, they may choose to stay in Massachusetts or New York, even if they are not able to find a position there fully utilizing her unique talents. Even worse for American business, she and her significant other could choose to move to Spain, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Belgium—all countries that recognize marriage of same-sex couples. And the superstars from those countries will be less likely to take jobs here."

What is the impact on the competitiveness of business operations based in California? The brief says, in a word, "devastating."

Photo: SirJoseMaria / Flickr.

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