Corporate America lobbies up in support of same-sex marriage

Last updated on October 24, 2022

About a dozen corporations are directly lobbying Capitol Hill for the first time in support of same-sex marriage rights, according to newly released disclosures.

Ten of those companies — including Toyota, Dell, General Mills and tobacco giant Altria — lobbied for the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation that would write same-sex and interracial marriage protections into law. The latest filings, which cover the third quarter of 2022, show corporate America is putting some financial heft behind its increasingly public affiliation with socially liberal causes like marriage rights. They come as conservative leaders have amplified their attacks on corporations that are wading into politics.

But the politics of marriage equality don’t divide so cleanly along partisan lines. Dow Chemical, for example, has tasked the GOP firm Fierce Government Relations with lobbying the Senate on the bill.

Others who have lobbied on the measure include UPS, Procter & Gamble, HP, and TechNet, a trade association whose members include tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple.

“We hear increasingly positive signs from Republicans, and not just limited to moderates, who believe this is a settled issue and look forward to supporting it,” Carl Holshouser, senior vice president at TechNet, said in a statement. “TechNet sees this as a pivotal moment to have their back on an issue very important to our members and employees.”

In response to inquiries about their advocacy, Altria, Dow, and the chemical company BASF reiterated their support for the legislation. An HP spokesperson said the company had a “long history of supporting equality in all its forms and will continue to do so.” Fran Dillard, vice president and chief diversity inclusion officer at Micron, said in a statement that it was the company’s first time lobbying on the Respect for Marriage Act but that it had historically supported anti-discrimination legislation.

“Non-inclusive policies go against Dell Technologies’ policies,” Dell said in a statement. “We believe in fair treatment in the workplace and reflect our commitment in our diversity, equity and anti-discrimination policies, as well as the public policies we support.”

The Respect for Marriage Act — which would officially repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and woman — easily passed the House in July with support from several dozen Republicans. But lawmakers punted the Senate vote until after the midterms, with the hope that it would get the needed 10 Republicans to avoid a filibuster if it was considered outside of a campaign season.

LGBTQ rights advocates said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade created new momentum from the business community around same-sex marriage. They pointed to language in a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggesting the high court reconsider its precedent on same-sex marriage, as an explanation for why there was an uptick in lobbying around the bill.

Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has been pushing companies to utilize their K Street teams to support the Respect for Marriage Act, saying the legislation’s ultimate passage will require “a sustained lobbying campaign.”

“Having been in Washington for almost 30 years, I’m familiar with the sausage making,” Nelson said. “As we get closer and closer to Election Day, we can’t let the drum beat for passing this bill lighten up.”

Last month, the Human Rights Campaign organized a coalition of more than 220 companies that called on the Senate to pass the legislation. Ten of those companies also filed paperwork this month showing their lobbyists worked on the issue.

But some prominent Republicans have gone after corporations in response to those companies involving themselves in LGBTQ issues. Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis revoked special tax district privileges from Walt Disney Co. for voicing its opposition to what some critics have dubbed as the “don’t say gay” law.

One lobbyist who has worked on the issue noted a significant uptick in interest in the same-sex legislation by corporate America — some lobbying directly and others simply following the bill.

“We’ve been working to make sure that folks on the Hill know that companies feel that this is an important issue,” the lobbyist said.

In statements, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), two of the sponsors of the bill, emphasized that corporate support reflected the public’s acceptance of same-sex marriages.

“The broad support we have for the Respect for Marriage Act is a reflection of where America is on this issue,” Baldwin said. “Now, the Senate needs to take action on this bipartisan legislation so we can take another step forward in America to prevent discrimination, promote equality, and protect the freedom and rights of all Americans.”