The day before U.S. president Barack Obama declared his support for gay marriage, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage and other legally recognized same-sex unions. Right-wing Republican lawmakers have gone beyond the new law banning same-sex marriage: the North Carolina provision will also prohibit straight civil unions and domestic partnerships. At a time when developed nations are legalizing the practice, forty-two U.S. states now ban it–twelve by statute and thirty by state constitutional amendment. The Universal Life Church Monastery strongly believes that all loving unions deserve legal recognition, and that we can achieve this by calling on corporations to defend marriage equality.
Major corporations have already begun to show support for just and fair marriage laws. When the Washington state legislature passed marriage equality in February, several northwest companies had already announced support for the measure, including Starbucks, Microsoft, Group Health, Nike, Concur, RealNetworks, and Vulcan, Inc. Discrimination, they argued, was not only unjust, but it was bad for business. And this seems to have been borne out by the data. Even after the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage called for a boycott of Starbucks products, Starbucks stock actually continued to rise, not decline. There is now even a Facebook page of Starbucks customers supporting same-sex marriage.
But big companies can be doing even more to defend equality. Since defending equality seems to be good for business, big companies should be implementing business practices which impose penalties on discriminatory states and actively attracting talent through recruitment, advertising, and incentives. One high-profile company with this kind of power is Google. The online services company, which supports marriage equality, should make North Carolina and other states feel the true sting of legislating discrimination by denying them business services in the form of Internet searches and advertising. They might even consider launching an advertising campaign with the motto “Don’t Be Evil”. It is a win-win situation for businesses and social justice advocates, and a devastating loss for discriminatory lobbyists. States that deny equal rights will quickly realize the economic ramifications of passing unjust laws.
This type of strategizing must become the new blueprint for corporate social responsibility if we as ordained ministers are to continue making inroads in the social justice arena. In an effort to serve and connect with their communities, corporations have shown a commitment to social responsibility through fair trade practices, environmental sustainability practices, and donations for the poor and needy. Now it is time for big businesses to extend the scope of their role in community investment to include the very institution that so many agree serves as the cornerstone of every community: marriage. If big companies are learning that supporting social justice causes reaps very real rewards in terms of business profits, and if extending marriage rights to same-sex couples at its core constitutes a social justice cause, it is only appropriate for these companies to take an active role not only in defending marriage equality, but in promoting it on the basis of its many merits, for both business and society as a whole. Corporate leadership will be integral to the fight for fairness and justice.
But marriage equality isn’t the only area in which big corporations can make a difference–they should be taking a strong, unyielding stance against all forms of discrimination, be it racial, sexual, religious, class-based, or otherwise. Nowhere are threats to hard-earned liberties more apparent than in the current American social and political landscape. Politicians and the religious leaders who prop them up have been making the most audacious attempts in years to roll back or severely restrict women’s reproductive rights. Arizona is a case in point. There, governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill banning abortions after twenty weeks because of supposed “health risks”; she has also signed a bill restricting health insurance coverage of contraception for non-medical purposes. As they do with states banning gay marriage, corporations with a conscience should drive home the message that reproductive rights are not negotiable, and they can do this by denying business services to these states and sanctioning residents who have fallen victim to injustice.
The Universal Life Church encourages its ministers to act as champions of social justice. Or church supports pushing back at the mounting onslaught against women, gays, and other marginalized groups by mobilizing support on the part of big business and leveraging corporate power and influence to reverse the disturbing trend in anti-gay, anti-woman legislation in places like North Carolina and Arizona. Just as Starbucks proved when it stood up to the National Organization for Marriage and consequently saw a rise in investments, speaking out in support of equality is good for business, and it is this point that we should be emphasizing. There are countless ways in which corporations can achieve this goal, the most obvious being the denial of business services and products to states which insist on restricting civil liberties (economic sanctions) as well as concerted efforts at drawing talent away from discriminatory states.
There should be no Google searches, no Facebook pages, and no mobile telephone service for “hate states”. Hate is hate, and when hateful states refuse to acknowledge that God and nature are revealing a new truth, the rest of us must shake things up. Homosexuality is ubiquitous and decidedly integral in the social structures of innumerable species, who are also creations of God. Gay citizens have been unique in their leadership, from General Alexander the Great to Eleanor Roosevelt and a host of renowned and respected individuals who simply want to love and marry as God willed. Our message is loud and clear: sanctions are the new penalty for bigotry. Government is broken, hence it is the duty of “new people-corporations” to unite under a common ethic of fairness, equality, and common-sense, and move our society forward.