Marriage equality is something we’re keeping a close watch on here at Ben & Jerry’s. There’s been a lot of progress on this decisive issue over the past few months— most significantly when the Supreme Court let stand the rulings of appeals courts that had struck down same sex marriage bans this past October.
While we applaud this step toward progress, a new report by Freedom to Marry and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates makes clear the costs of an incomplete Federal ruling. The new report reveals that the current patchwork of same sex marriage laws is costing private sector businesses $1.3 billion every year. If the current legal framework persists, the new report shows that the private sector is expected to spend $6.6 billion over the next five years adapting to inconsistent laws that allow and then ban same sex marriages state to state. That is a huge cost, added to the emotional burden of marriage that isn’t considered legally valid across the country.
In September, Ben & Jerry’s joined an employers amicus brief filed in collaboration with 30 other local and global companies and corporations to highlight the price tag the current set up exacts on companies, employees, and the economy. Support for same-sex marriage in the private sector is broad and strong, but it exists in a fractious legal setting. Despite 91 % of Fortune 500 companies maintaining non-discrimination policies for LGBT employees, those same employees can still be fired in more than half of US states based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
While we’re elated that marriage equality is moving forward on a state-by-state level, there is still a lot of ground to be covered, and the economic, social and emotional stakes remain high. We’re asking fellow business leaders to step up to both protect their employees, and push the issue forward toward a national resolution.