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To Snag Top Talent, Companies Come Out for Gay Rights

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At Work (The Wall Street Journal)
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November 14, 2012

As they seek to attract and keep top talent, more companies are coming out in support of gay rights.

More than 70 major businesses, nearly 40% of them Fortune 500 firms, made public statements supporting same-sex marriage or opposing gay-marriage bans over the last 18 months, according to a study set to be released Wednesday by the Washington, D.C.-based gay rights advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign.

Deena Fidas, a deputy director for Human Rights Campaign, says businesses increasingly see gay rights as key to hiring and keeping talent. Companies often face headaches when moving workers who have a same-sex partner, because states differ widely on tax policies and parental rights for gay couples. An open work culture, she says, is also a selling point in attracting top talent.

Recent campaigns to legalize gay marriage in several states, including New York and Washington State, have given companies the opportunity to voice their support. Such public declarations stand in contrast to four years ago, when just three companies – Google Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and PG&E Corp. – spoke out against California’s proposed gay-marriage ban, according to the nonprofit.

“It’s no longer a niche issue for businesses,” Ms. Fidas says. “The Alcoas, Aetnas and General Mills of the world are behind it.”

With so many large companies now building “critical mass,” other businesses are less likely to worry that speaking out will lead to customer boycotts and other potential repercussions, she adds.