Goldman CEO Blankfein: Equality is good business

(MoneyWatch) 278 companies joined the friend of the court brief supporting overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which will be argued before the Supreme Court at the end of this month. One company in particular has not only lent its name, but its CEO has become one of the faces of marriage equality.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs took an early lead on the issue when he appeared in a Human Rights Campaign video last year. At the time, the LGBT world (of which I am a proud member) was buzzing: Why did he do it? Did he have a gay child or sibling? Was this an effort to rebuild a tarnished reputation after the financial crisis? As it turns out, the answer was simpler: Blankfein believes that "equality is good business".

The counter-argument in the brief is that DOMA is bad for business, because it forces employers to violate their own policies and principles and treat employees differently. Additionally, the brief states DOMA can undermine teamwork, efficiency and causes needless distractions. The conservative Family Research Council, which filed a brief opposing gay marriage, blamed "a corporate environment dictated by wealthy, pro-homosexual activists" for the growing corporate support of same-sex marriage and said that the business issues cited in the briefs were "trivial."

The issues were not trivial, according to the large companies who joined the brief. In addition to technology firms (Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter) which have often been leaders on LGBT issues, the brief is populated with some of the largest global financial firms. In addition to Goldman Sachs, Aetna, AIG, Bank of NY Mellon, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, New York Life and State Street all joined the brief. In fact, Morgan Stanley has joined both amicus briefs for the cases that will be before the Supreme Court: The one related to overturning DOMA (United States v. Windsor) and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which considers the constitutionality of California's proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

While many signed, there are plenty more the did not. Noticeably absent from brief were financial giants JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and American Express. The omission of Bank of America is particularly surprising, since the the company hosted the 2012 Out on the Street Annual Conference (note: I was a moderator of a panel at this conference) and Mark Stephanz, Vice Chairman, Global Financial Sponsors of Bank of America, has been an outspoken LGBT advocate.

Only six Dow Jones Industrial Average components joined the brief, including Alcoa, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Pfizer and Walt Disney. In addition, CBS Corporation joined the brief.

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    View all articles by Jill Schlesinger on CBS MoneyWatch »
    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Emmy-nominated, Business Analyst for CBS News. She covers the economy, markets, investing and anything else with a dollar sign on TV, radio (including her nationally syndicated radio show), the web and her blog, "Jill on Money." Prior to her second career at CBS, Jill spent 14 years as the co-owner and Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. She began her career as a self-employed options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York, following her graduation from Brown University.

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