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Employers support same-sex marriage for Texas, other southern states

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A group of national and regional employers has urged a judicial panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to uphold same-sex couples' right to legally marry in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Amazon.com Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Google Inc. and Target Corp. were among the largest of the three dozen employers named in an amicus brief filed Tuesday in support of gay and lesbian couples challenging Texas' constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The employers' brief argues that the state's anti-gay marriage law — as well as similar laws in Louisiana and Mississippi, which are also within the 5th Circuit's jurisdiction — not only violates same-sex couples' rights under the U.S. Constitution, but also places substantial economic and administrative burdens on companies that provide health insurance and other employment benefits to same-sex couples.

“Benefits are critical to our effort to compete for talent, as benefits directly contribute to recruitment and employee loyalty,” the employers said in their brief.

Although legally wed same-sex couples are entitled to equal treatment under qualified retirement plans, unpaid medical leave and income taxes under federal law, employers noted in their brief that gay and lesbian employees in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage are still often denied access to many rights and benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples, including spousal benefits under fully insured health care plans.

“As employers, we know operating in today's fractured landscape of conflicting state laws on marriage stunts our economic growth and innovation by forcing us to work harder and invest more to achieve the same return on our investment,” the employers said in their brief. “Inconsistent laws defining marriage force us to divert significant time and cost to complex administrative systems and create a rift in the employer-employee relationship.”

The employers also argue that outlawing same-sex marriage at the state level forces them, in many cases, to act in contravention to their corporate philosophies and beliefs.

“We developed and implemented nondiscrimination policies both because they are the right thing to do, but also because these policies are crucial to our ability to recruit and retain excellent employees,” the employers' brief said. “In turn, the ability to hire the best human capital helps us create teams and corporate cultures that allow us to create, innovate, and ultimately increase our profits and economic value.”

“Marriage bans conscript us, as the administrators of state benefits, to become the face of a law that requires us to treat our employees in committed same-sex relationships differently from our employees married to different-sex spouses,” the brief continues.

A federal district judge overturned Texas' constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in February. Oral arguments in the state's appeal of that ruling have not yet been scheduled.