UPDATE 2-Corporations urge U.S. Supreme Court to embrace gay marriage

Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:14pm EST
 
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* Court will hear cases in late March, rule by June

* Business community's filing seen as unprecedented

By Lawrence Hurley and Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - More than 200 businesses on Wednesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal law that restricts the definition of marriage to heterosexual unions, in one of corporate America's most prominent efforts to support same-sex marriage.

The companies signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in Windsor v. United States, a high-profile case challenging the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). They ranged from technology giants Microsoft Corp and Google Inc to Wall Street financiers such as Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc to vineyards and yogurt makers in California.

Thomson Reuters Corp, which owns the Reuters news agency, also supported the submission.

The companies want the Supreme Court to void a key provision in the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. They largely stayed away from constitutional arguments attacking the law and instead focused on the business nuisance the law created.

DOMA forces employers to treat employees with same-sex spouses differently from those with opposite-sex partners, the companies said, depriving gay employees of certain healthcare and retirement benefits that may be on offer. The law also creates headaches for human resources officials, they said.

"HR departments would tell you it is a disaster trying to deal with DOMA when you are a large employer, because you have these employees who are legally married, but now you've got to put them in a different box for W-2s, for ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), for retirement benefits, and it's really vexing," said Sabin Willett in an interview. Willett wrote the brief for his law firm, Bingham McCutchen, which handled the matter pro bono.   Continued...