How Wall Street came out on gay marriage

Thu Apr 23, 2015 11:24am EDT
 
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On March 6, the day of the U.S. Supreme Court's deadline for legal briefs backing same-sex marriage, gay rights activists quietly celebrated a victory on Wall Street.

Twenty-eight of the country's biggest financial firms had made an unprecedented show of unity in support of gay marriage by urging the court to strike down state laws banning same-sex unions.

That was double the number that signed on to a similar effort in 2013, signaling how the traditionally conservative financial industry has come to publicly embrace gay rights. Then, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples.

"Together, we pushed Wall Street to a place our industry has never gone before," Daniel Maury, a managing director at UBS Group AG, wrote in a celebratory email to his fellow members of Open Finance, a group of gay and lesbian Wall Street employees that lobbied hard for banks' signatures.

The 28 included major U.S. investment and retail banks, the "big four" accounting firms and financial information firms Thomson Reuters Corp, which owns Reuters, and Bloomberg LLP.

Wall Street's evolution on gay rights mirrors a broader shift on the issue in corporate America and society. But in some ways it has been a more difficult transition for a financial industry known for a macho culture famously portrayed in the 1987 movie "Wall Street" and where homophobic sentiment has in the past been widespread.

Peter Staley, who worked at J.P. Morgan in the 1980s before becoming a high-profile HIV/AIDS activist, recalled constant homophobic comments when he was a bond trader.

"For a closeted gay man, it was probably the worst environment I could have chosen," he said. "It was very infuriating and humiliating for someone who had a dark secret like I had."   Continued...

 
LGBT activist Daniel Maury relaxes at home with his partner, Mark Paulson, and dog Luca in New York April 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson