Gay Marriage Is Just Good Business: The Financial Argument for Equality

Same-sex-marriageAdvocates for gay marriage have been achieving a lot of success across the nation lately, with November wins at the ballot box legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington state. Feeding on that building momentum, Rhode Island, Illinois, Hawaii, Minnesota and Delaware are also now looking to recognize marriage equality for the LGBT community.

Arguments in favor of gay marriage are typically centered on justice. But there's a financial case to be made marriage equality for it, too.

Consider, for example, Illinois, where dozens of major business leaders have publicly declared support for gay marriage.

The public letter, signed by business leaders from Google (GOOG), Groupon (GRPN), Morningstar (MORN), Navistar International (NAV), Hyatt Hotels, Leo Burnett, Orbitz Worldwide (OWW), and Exelon (EXC), among others, stated that "to be competitive, a state must create an equitable, fair and respectful environment for all of its citizens. For this reason -- among others -- it is vitally important that Illinois lawmakers enact marriage equality soon."

The letter makes the case that promoting marriage equality helps businesses attract a broader range of employees, which, in turn, helps companies better connect with a diverse customer base. Also cited in the letter are numbers supporting the idea that legalizing gay marriage would promote economic development in a broader sense: "According to the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, allowing same-sex couples to marry would generate between $39 million and $72 million in revenues for Illinois businesses, creating $4.5 million to $8 million in new sales and lodging tax revenues over three years."

Taking Action in Other Ways

Some companies aren't waiting for laws to be passed to show their support of gay marriage in other ways.

J.C. Penney (JCP) and Macy's (M), for example, have featured same-sex couples in their ads, while other companies, such as General Mills (GIS), Nike (NKE), Microsoft (MSFT), (AMZN), and Starbucks (SBUX), have issued supportive statements or donated money to marriage equality advocacy groups.

Some companies and organizations have been proactive, and others reactive, in their support. In Orlando, Fla., for example, the gay community designated a certain weekend each year as "Gay Days," and descended upon Disney parks and other local attractions en masse. The city only recently began recognizing and promoting the event, which is estimated to bring in more than $13 million.

That's peanuts, though, compared to the estimated total buying power of the LGBT community: close to $780 billion.

Companies are clearly catching on. Take a look at the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which measures the nation's largest businesses on their equal employment opportunity policies, employee benefits, organizational LGBT competency, and their public commitment to equality and responsible corporate citizenship.

Only 13 companies earned top marks in its first survey in 2002. Last year 189 companies did. (Though it must be noted that the Human Rights Campaign's criteria for the index have changed somewhat over the years.)

Support is Growing

Widespread legalization of gay marriage increasingly seems inevitable in America, with support for it nationally and in Illinois growing rapidly.

Public opinion surveys reflect a growth in support. A recent study by the bipartisan Paul Simon Public Policy Institute reported a 10-percentage-point gain in support in Illinois to 44 percent in just the past two years (with an additional 32 percent favoring civil unions instead). A USA Today/Gallup poll taken in November shows national support at 53 percent, up from about 40 percent in 2009.

If America is moving toward universal marriage equality, then it makes sense that the last states to recognize it will be at a competitive disadvantage in many ways. And if ethical grounds aren't enough reason for some to support gay marriage, perhaps the financial grounds will be.

Motley Fool contributor Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, owns shares of Microsoft, Google,, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends, Exelon, Google, Morningstar, Nike, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of, Google, Microsoft, Nike, and Starbucks.

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Jamal Jackson

If my business can make money off of humans having sex with animals I'll be supportive of it. Yeah these people are perverts and will continue being perverts so why not make some money from it? Having said that, the whole equality argument is entirely bogus. Also the argument that companies can't attract talent if gay marriage is illegal is ridiculous.
By the way, polluting rivers is good business for some too.....

February 26 2013 at 10:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Russell Winfrey

‎"Klein says, "they're making a choice to do what their doing, I'm making a choice to not be a part of it," trying to make a libertarianistic case for his choice to refuse service, but it requires little imagination to extend that logic uncomfortably far. So far that discrimination is the basis rather than a pitfall of the market, where the provider is as or more important as the product, and so on."

February 06 2013 at 3:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

From Loving v. Virginia (1967) which overturned all existing laws banning inter-racial marriage: "Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man." Marriage is a civil right + gender discrimination is illegal regarding civil rights = gays win all court cases.

January 30 2013 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Macdonald Bank

Being black, left-handed or being gay is just as natural. It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return ... it is something that should be celebrated! If it’s between two guys or two girls -- all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

January 29 2013 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rainbow Catholics

I found the letter interesting not so much for who signed it, but for those in the financial community who did not sign it. KPMG, Priecewaterhouse, Ernst & Young. and UBS. These firms have not been shy about supporting gay rights over the years, and each has its own LGBT employee affinity groups. I would of thought they would of been naturals for such a letter.

January 28 2013 at 5:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This is just more of the "us" verses "them" mentality, which is only destructive whether that mentality refers to religion, skin color, gender or sexual preference. Time fo America to finally grow up already. We have real problems and this issue should have been put to rest years ago when this country went through the same struggle over interracial marriage. We should have learned the lessons then, but we obviously didn't.

January 28 2013 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It all boils down to equality, just as it did back in the 60's black movement. FYI...And "NO. it's not a matter of choice". TYVM

January 28 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Good business, morals and ethics in toilet bowl, not that these types of people even care about that part!

January 28 2013 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toddisit's comment

Morals and ethics? Whos? Yours?

January 28 2013 at 3:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My same gender wedding in VT was GREAT We flew out of MS(600 for air fare) to achive getting what is a state issued licenses NOT A CHURCH ISSUSED LICENSES, We spent 45 for it and 60 pluse 25 in tip, he gives all his wedding money to the local homeless shelter and the no kill animal shelter on a JoP, who came to the Hotel(4 nights @ 125+ another 100 for food etc at the hotel,) and lead us to the clerks office we were his LAST one for the year. We spent maybe another 400 in food and entertainment locally and 125 on made in VT trinkets to send out as souvenirs That was money we could have spent in one of the poorest states in the US but here in MS equality applies only to str8 white Christians, all others don't matter

January 28 2013 at 2:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dascaul's comment

Here we go only straight white christians. Maybe your state doesn't approve because it is an unnatural act. What's next sex between humans and animals don't laugh anybody old enough to have grown up in the 50's and before will tell you same sex marriage back then seemed as ludicrous as human to animal does now. I am not a real religious man but I don't think the man upstairs is real happy about this and the slaughter of 56,000,000 babies since the Wade decision.

January 28 2013 at 3:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Hi BoBo

very sad i don/t kown what really happen to this country, look like america is becaming a toylet country.

January 28 2013 at 2:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hi BoBo's comment

Looks like another uneducated conservative. Go back to school and learn how to spell.

January 28 2013 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply