Many of us have come to support gay marriage as a moral decision made at a personal, individual level.
Now employers are deciding that being in favor of same-sex marriage is a smart business decision, one essential in recruiting talented people to their companies.
That includes Boston Scientific, which in late February threw its weight behind this cause by joining 277 other employers. Together they filed an amicus brief with the Court in opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act signed into law under President Bill Clinton. The case will be heard on March 27.
It appears that Boston Scientific is the only pure medical device company to join the amicus filing arguing that the DOMA is bad for employer-employee relations among other things. Boston Scientific is in good company. Other than Apple, MIcrosoft, Facebook, Twitter, 19 other healthcare-affiliated companies and organizations have lent their names to this effort by my count . They include pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, health insurance companies like Aetna and diversified company Johnson & Johnson.
Here are some portions of the amicus brief [footnotes have been deleted]
The House of Representatives argues that Congress, through DOMA, sought to impose a uniform rule of eligibility for federal marital benefits. The perspective of the American employer who must implement DOMA is very different. Far from creating uniformity, DOMA obliges employers to treat an employee married to someone of the same sex and an employee married to someone of a different sex unequally.
While DOMA does not prevent a non-federal employer from offering health-care benefits to the same-sex spouse of an employee, it does impose discriminatory tax treatment. Under the Internal Revenue Code, the fair market value of health-care benefits for a qualified employee’s spouse who is not otherwise a dependent of the qualified employee is not subject to federal income tax, but DOMA forces both employer and employee to treat that value as taxable income when the qualified employee and his spouse are of the same sex.
In the modern workplace, the employer becomes the face of DOMA’s discriminatory treatment, and is placed in the role of intrusive inquisitor, imputer of taxable income, and withholder of benefits. The employer is thus forced by DOMA to participate in the injury of its own workforce morale.
The amicus brief precedes several high-profile reversals of previously held positions when it comes to gay marriage from both parties - Hillary Clinton, from the blue side of the political spectrum and Senator Rob Portman, from the red.
The Supreme Court case on DOMA and another case to be heard that seeks to overthrow the Prop 8 constitutional amendment in California that bans gay marriage comes at a time when the majority of the American public favors gay marriage.
In that context, employer-support from Boston Scientific couldn't have come a moment sooner. Here's hoping more companies will publicly endorse the same position.
-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor MD+DI