WASHINGTON — Some of the nation’s biggest corporations — including Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Pfizer — say laws in Oklahoma and other states banning same-sex marriage pose administrative burdens and force them to violate their principles.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the federal appeals court that is hearing a same-sex marriage case from Oklahoma and a similar one from Utah, 46 companies and business groups said they are ultimately hurt by laws they consider discriminatory.
“The mandate in Utah, Oklahoma and other states requires that we single out colleagues with same-sex partners and treat them as a separate and unequal class as compared to employees with heterosexual partners when dealing with state marital benefits,” the brief says.
“This mandate upsets our business philosophy and prevents our companies from reaching our full economic potential because it dissuades those employees from living and working in the jurisdictions where we do, or want to do, business.”
U.S. district judges in Oklahoma and Utah recently struck down constitutional provisions passed in 2004 banning same-sex marriage. Those decisions are on appeal at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which is considering them on a fast track. Oral arguments are scheduled next month.
Several groups on both sides have given their input through friend-of-the-court briefs.
Among those signing the corporations’ brief were Google, Oracle, eBay, Starbucks, Intel, Pfizer, Cisco, Overstock.com and Levi Strauss. Smaller companies, including a Colorado brewery, also signed.
Google has invested more than $700 million in a data center near Pryor, Oklahoma; less than two years ago, the operations manager at the data center expressed appreciation for the reception the company had received in the state and said, “We are glad to be in Oklahoma.”
Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said Wednesday that Oklahoma has seen “major investments from Google, General Electric, Verizon, Macy's and other major companies. It is clear our economy is growing and our reputation as a destination state for business and job creation has been enhanced in recent years. The governor expects that reputation will continue to grow.”
In their brief, the companies said the mandates against same-sex marriage pose administrative burdens and hurt morale.
“Our success is dependent upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction,” the brief states.
“This forced differential treatment — imposed by state law — of similarly situated employees interferes with our business and professional judgment and creates unnecessary confusion, tension, and ultimately, diminished employee morale.”
Reversing the district judges’ rulings, they said, “would serve only to prolong an unproductive, inequitable and unjust status quo.”
All of the businesses signing the brief have operations in the 10th judicial Circuit, which includes Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico.
Many of the tech companies signing the brief are based in California, where a statewide ban on same-sex marriage was passed by voters but also struck down by a federal judge.