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6/26/2013
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Tech Companies Embrace Marriage Equality

For Google, Apple, Microsoft and a growing number of companies, supporting social issues like gay marriage strengthens employee relations, recruiting and overall business success.

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Wednesday's Supreme Court decisions overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and rejecting a challenge to a lower court ruling that struck down California's Proposition 8 was made possible in part by technology companies that recognize the value of treating workers the same way, regardless of sexual orientation.

Treating employees fairly, offering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers the same benefits, protections and rights as others, appears to be on the rise. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights, said that in 2012, 189 major businesses received perfect scores for social responsibility in its Corporate Equality Index. In 2013, that number rose to 252.

The group asserts that there's a correlation between financial success and willingness to support same-sex rights: "The numbers are irrefutable: The more successful a business is in the United States, the more likely it is to embrace equality."

[ Change is afoot. Read 4 Ways CIOs Can Unleash Digital Disruption. ]

For many of these companies, it's the other way around: They believe that supporting LGBT rights helps ensure their success. Here, in no particular order, are a few tech companies that see a link between their capacity to innovate and progressive workplace policies.

Google

Use Google to look up "gay" today and you'll see the search box on the search results page wrapped in a rainbow. That's a small celebration of a long-standing commitment to what Google co-founder Sergey Brin described in 2008 as "fundamentally as an issue of equality." Last year, Google launched a campaign called "Legalize Love."

Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook is widely reported to be gay, having three years running earned a place on Out magazine's list of the most powerful gay men and women. He hasn't said as much publicly, but his leadership of one of the most successful companies in the world demonstrates how little sexual orientation matters in business. What matters more is his company's support for LGBT equality in the workplace. Back in 2008, Apple donated $100,000 in the fight against California's Proposition 8 and was among the tech companies that supported a legal filing against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Think different.

Facebook

Facebook was one of dozens of companies that supported an amicus brief arguing that laws banning same sex marriage are unconstitutional. In the wake of a Human Rights Campaign push for Facebook members to alter their profile pictures as a sign of support for marriage equality, Facebook in March published analytic data on the effort.

Microsoft

If this video promotion of Outlook.com, which includes two women getting married and a song by gay-rights supporters Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, wasn't enough to demonstrate Microsoft's commitment to LGBT equality, there's Microsoft's presence among the signatories of the amicus brief declaring that the DOMA "impairs employer/employee relations and other business interests." The company said as much separately in a blog post last year. "To be successful, it's critical that we have a workforce that is as diverse as our customers," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. "Every day, the national and global economies are becoming more diverse. The lifeblood of a business is its ability to understand and connect with its customers. We're no exception. Now more than ever, the most effective workforce is a diverse workforce." In 1993, Microsoft was the first Fortune 500 company to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie last year pledged $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage, an organization supporting the legality of gay marriage in Washington state. In February, Amazon ran a Kindle ad featuring a man, a woman and their respective husbands. Its benefits cover domestic partners.

Other companies worth recognizing include: CA, Cisco, Dell, eBay, Electronic Arts, EMC, Genentech, HP, Intuit, Lexmark, Nokia, Oracle, Symantec, Tech Data, Xerox and Yahoo, all of which received perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index.

And these companies are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other companies in other industries see wisdom in treating all employees fairly with regard to benefits and opportunities. Equality it seems is good business.

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