Does DOMA Complicate Corporate Interests in Massachusetts?

A battalion of 70 Massachusetts businesses challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month. The group is fed up with the federal law, they say, as it hinders their hiring processes among homosexuals.

The case involves such major corporate interests as Microsoft and Starbucks, law firms, trade organizations and even the cities of Boston, Cambridge and New York. Across the board, however, the song remains the same – differences between state and federal marriage laws in Massachusetts are making for a bigger administrative burden.

It's a claim that has many in the Christian and conservative communities crying foul. DOMA defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman at the federal level while also ensuring states against same-sex marriages don't have to recognize them in their own territory. Making Massachusetts businesses file extra paperwork for their gay and married employees, opponents of the case claim, is thus a necessary evil for ensuring marriage's sanctity.

"Some businesses argue that having one definition of marriage at the state level and another at the federal level is an administrative burden to them," said Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. "I don't doubt it complicates things, but it provides no good reason for overturning a valid federal law that ensures uniformity on the definition of marriage."

Dr. Barrett Duke, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's senior vice president for public policy and research, said the case marked another misguided attempt at redefining marriage into something it isn't. The businesses filing the brief in Massachusetts, he said, were disconnected from the Americans who paid for their products and services.

"It's disappointing some companies are choosing to aid the repeal of DOMA and moving our country away from the historic definition of marriage," Duke said. "We should be honoring and protecting traditional marriage as one of the best and strongest relationships for rearing the next generation. Traditional families are the bedrock of society and the key building block of the institution of civilization."

In contrast, many businesses argue DOMA cuts their competitive edge in appealing to same-sex unions by eliminating marriage benefits they can offer in states like Massachusetts. There's also plenty more paper cuts, they argue, coming from added paperwork concerning employee benefits that differ at the state and federal levels.

"Microsoft has joined dozens of corporations, organizations and governments in support of a challenge on constitutionality grounds to the federal Defense of Marriage Act known as DOMA," said a Microsoft spokesperson speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The amicus brief filed recently points out the significant costs and administrative burdens DOMA imposes on employers as well as the ways DOMA interferes with employers' efforts to promote diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace."

Sprigg said that such major economic enterprises encountered multiple government regulations every day that changed the way they conducted business. DOMA was no exception, he said, and complaining corporate interests were raising concerns for political gain.

"I don't see the logic of these companies' positions at all," Sprigg said. "Most of them are capable of providing domestic partnership benefits on a private level regardless of each state's marriage laws. The paperwork burden being discussed here can just as easily be resolved by repealing same-sex marriage laws in the other states that allow it alongside Massachusetts."

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