September 12, 2014
At Ben & Jerry’s we like to say, “love comes in all flavors.” We were one of the first companies to offer same sex domestic benefits for employees, and have been standing up for the commitments of couples in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) communities around the world ever since.
“Often, it’s not enough to change the way you do business, or change the practice within your business,” says Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Activism Manager. “Unless you’re willing to stand up and advocate for the rights of others, not just here in our backyard but around the world, it’s often just not good enough.”
So we were pretty happy last June when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling affirming that all married couples deserve equal legal respect and treatment. It was a landmark moment, but also effectively kicked the decision to allow same sex marriages down to a state level.
One year later, a series of lawsuits against states that ban LGBT marriages are showing that this issue requires a federal ruling to truly and finally resolve it. Circuit courts around the country are declaring that state-level marriage bans are unconstitutional, thus staying the decisions pending a Supreme Court review of one, or all of these cases. With more and more of these cases stacking up, it’s hopeful that the Supreme Court will take up the issue, and make a broader ruling, soon.
In the meantime, we’re continuing to speak up for marriage equality (something we like to do, in addition to releasing special flavors like “Hubby Hubby” in the US, “I Dough, I Dough” in Australia, and EngageMint Party in Ireland).
“This is not just a concern of the gay rights community,” says Miller. “There is a broad base of support for a single standard across all 50 states that recognize same sex marriage.”
We’re proud to have signed onto an “Employers’ Amicus Brief.” That’s fancy lawyer speak for a formal legal petition asking the Supreme Court to review these latest circuit court rulings, and make a ruling that state governments may not act to hinder a business from treating all of its legally married employees in the same way. We’ve signed on with 30 other global and local companies who are fed up with a state-level ban on allowing a legally binding marriage, and all the benefits that go with it.
“This amicus puts these corporations on record saying that in addition to this being an issue of civil rights, it complicates the running of our businesses. It creates this really confusing administrative nightmare for companies— from a tax point of view, and from a benefits point of view.”
Even from an HR point of view, it’s plain to see that companies in states that ban same sex marriages may have trouble recruiting folks from other states. From a practical and employee rights perspective, this issue is a big concern to employers in all industries. The 30 amicus brief signees aren’t a “who’s-who” of lefty business, points out Miller. “If you look at the list, you’ve got some very large, mainstream, well-recognized corps and brands, and I think that brings some credibility to the issue— the broader the base of support you have, the more likely it is you’re going to make a change.”
In over 15 years of supporting our employees and their right to love who they love, we’ve realized that every voice counts— click over to Human Rights Campaign to find out ways you can support marriage equality in your own state.