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Posts for February, 2013

300 Employers Urge SCOTUS to Declare DOMA Unconstitutional

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2013

More than 200 businesses, a couple score of law firms, sixteen civic, professional and trade groups, seventeen cities and counties and the United States Conference of mayors — the short list of signatories runs six pages alone — have signed on to an Amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The brief, filed in support of Edith Windsor in Windsor v. U.S. (which is now available online), argues that DOMA “impairs employer/employee relations and other business interests”:

Federal law provides to the working family many benefits and protections relating to health care, pro-tected leave, and retirement. These protections provide security and support to an employee grappling with sickness, disability, childcare, family crisis, or retirement, allowing the employee to devote more focus and attention to his work.

DOMA thwarts these employee expectations, to the direct detriment of some married employees of amici , and, by extension, of amici ourselves. As set forth below, DOMA forces amici to consider the gender of the spouses of our lawfully married employees when determining the scope and manner of benefits that may be extended to those spouses (and the chil-dren of those spouses). DOMA enforces discriminatory tax treatment of spousal retirement and health care benefits. In many other benefit-related matters,amici may incur the cost and administrative burden of “workarounds” (employer-created benefit structures attempting to compensate for the discriminatory effects of DOMA), or leave the married workforce in separate castes.

Having states recognizing same-sex marriages while the Federal government willfully ignores those legal marriage produces a costly burden to employers:

These dual regimes have spawned an industry of costly compliance specialists. Some amici have had to pay vendors to reprogram benefits and payroll systems, to add coding to reconcile different tax and benefit treatments, to reconfigure at every benefit and coverage level, and to revisit all of these modifications with every change in tax or ERISA laws for potential DOMA impact. Attorneys and ERISA advisors must be consulted. Human resources, benefits,and payroll personnel must be trained and retrained as tax or ERISA laws change. Plan documents, enrollment forms, and administrative procedures must be scoured for the word “spouse,” and amendments and disclosures drafted to try to explain the numerous implications and consequences of a given benefits decision on the personal tax situation of an employee with a same-sex spouse. Enrollment systems must be reprogrammed to account for different spousal circumstances, and linked to provider records to ensure the providers extend appropriate coverage. Benefits and human resources departments, facing questions from employees with same-sex spouses regarding workplace benefit selections and coverage, must be adequately trained and prepared to explain the disparate treatment to employees who may later realize (perhaps too late) that their benefits choices and decisions carried unanticipated and significant financial implications. The complexity and uncertainty saps critical time, focus, and energy from the human resources and benefits administration function.

The second part of the brief goes the heart of the matter, that DOMA forces employers to “become the face of its mandate that two separate castes of married persons be identified and separately treated.”:

In the modern workplace, the employer becomes the face of DOMA’s discriminatory treatment, and is placed in the role of intrusive inquisitor, imputer of taxable income, and withholder of benefits. The employer is thus forced by DOMA to participate in the injury of its own workforce morale. Yale University’s error in administering DOMA, and its implementation of unexpected tax withholding against employees married to same-sex spouses in 2011, cast the university as the antagonist to its own employees. Many amici, as employers, provide certain workarounds that attempt to address some of the disparate treatment of same-sex couples that DOMA requires. Many amici that are cities and counties have gone even farther, making substantial efforts to prevent discrimination against same-sex couples, up to and including passing anti-discrimination ordinances and amending city charters to outlaw discrimination against same-sex couples. Administering and implementing DOMA subverts efforts to eliminate obstacles to full legal recognition for employees who have lawfully entered into committed relationships with persons of the same sex.

…For many employers, DOMA does violence to the morale of the institution itself. Like other persons, legal and natural, amici are motivated by core principles. As of December 2012, 88% of Fortune 500 companies provided nondiscrimination protection for their gay and lesbian employees. …These principles spring from hard experience. Our organizations are engaged in national and international competition -— for talent, customers, and business. That competition demands teamwork, and teamwork thrives when the organization minimizes distracting differences, and focuses on a common mission. DOMA’s core mandate -— that we single out some of our married colleagues and treat them as a lesser class —- upsets this imperative.

Our principles are not platitudes. Our mission statements are not simply plaques in the lobby. Statements of principle are our agenda for success: born of experience, tested in laboratory, factory, and office, attuned to competition. Our principles reflect, in the truest sense, our business judgment. By force of law, DOMA rescinds that judgment and directs that we renounce these principles or, worse yet, betray them.

Earlier today, it was announced that more than sixty businesses have submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to declare California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional. While I haven’t been able to find the full text of that brief, it appears that at least some of the arguments made there are repeated here. That brief argued that Prop 8 “leave(s) companies in the untenable position of being compelled implicitly to endorse the second-class status to which their gay and lesbian employees, clients, customers, and business associates are relegated. …Until the law no longer relegates same-sex couples to second-class status as inferior “domestic partnerships,” our adherence to the law compels us to abide by a distinction that stigmatizes and dehumanizes gay men and lesbians.”

Signatories to the Windsor brief includes many of America’s top companies and brands, including Aetna, Alaska Airlines, Amazon.com, AIG, Apple, A|X Armani Exchange, BNY Mellon, Bankers Trust, BlackRock, Caesars Entertainment, CBS, Cisco, Citigroup, The Corcoran Group, Coupons.com, Deutche Bank, eBay, Earnst & Young, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Horizon Air, Intel, Intuit, JetBlue, the Jim Henson Company, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Liberty Mutual, Marriot International, Mars, McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, New York Life, Nike, Oracle, Orbitz, Pfizer, Qualcomm, REI, salesforce.com, Starbucks, Thomson Reuters, Twitter, Viacom, Walt Disney, and Xerox. That is just a short list of the big names. There are about 300 more. I look forward to the American Family Association’s next boycott announcement.

Brian Brown’s MSU strategy

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2012

I’ve enjoyed poking fun at the National Organization for Marriage boycotts of Starbucks and General Mills. The absurdity of Starbucks’ customer base suddenly deciding to forgo a mocha frappuchino because Brian Brown asked them to is laughable. So far they’ve not been able to get fifty thousand signatures on their Dump Starbucks site and their Dump General Mills is only half that.

But wacky conservatives play by a funny rule book. When their boycotts achieve nothing (which is always) they just Make Sh!t Up. After hearing from the American Family Association about their Disney boycott (is it still on?), you’d think that Walt’s frozen head is somewhere weeping. And the handful of men who call themselves One Million Moms insist that they are the reason that Playboy Club and GCB were not renewed for another season.

So why shouldn’t Brian follow suit?

Today, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced that their protest of Starbucks is achieving results. “Starbucks supported same-sex marriage, saw their support from Republicans dwindle, missed sales projections, and watched the company lose $4.4 billion overnight and over $10 billion from their 2012 high,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “While executives of publicly traded companies have had a wonderful time claiming that not supporting same-sex marriage hurts their employee recruitment and retention efforts, we now have a case study in how alienating millions of customers can directly affect the bottom line of a public company and damage shareholder value.”

Now I’m not exactly sure what Brian means. I think he is basing this claim on the publicly traded stock value on one day (I assume August 2); but if so it makes no sense to say that the company lost $4.4 billion or that this says anything about “the bottom line”. Of course, Brian could just be so astonishingly unaware of the difference between stock trading price and financial statements that he truly thinks that a drop in stock literally means that the company lost income.

Starbucks' stock price over the past year

As for Starbucks and the boycott, well there actually is some info on how that is going. Starbucks has released their quarter three results which pretty closely cover the period since NOM started their boycott:

Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX) today reported financial results for its 13-week fiscal third quarter ended July 1, 2012.

Fiscal Third Quarter 2012 Highlights:

Total net revenues increased 13% to $3.3 billion
U.S. comparable store sales increased 7%; Global comparable store sales increased 6%
Channel Development revenues increased 45% to $316 million
Operating income increased 22% to $492 million; operating margin expanded 120 basis points to 14.9%
EPS increased 19% to $0.43 per share, compared to $0.36 per share in Q3 FY11
Starbucks opened 231 net new stores globally, including its 600th store in mainland China, and its first stores in Finland and Costa Rica.

If those results reflect NOM’s boycott, maybe Lowe’s should consider renaming itself The We-Love-Gay-Marriage Company and send NOM a press release.

NOM’s takes ‘dump’ nationwide

Timothy Kincaid

July 2nd, 2012

The National Organization for Marriage has exciting news about their very successful “dump” campaigns. Although it may have about 20,000 stores, Starbucks will soon be feeling the bite of NOM’s reach and influence. In addition to the 45,342 people who have pledged not to buy Starbucks are the grandchildren and bingo partners of these dedicated souls who will not receive Starbucks giftcards this Christmas. And with press coverage in many newspapers and Sunday inserts, their dump efforts have gotten tremendous visibility.

In a move that is certain to severely cut into the profits of Starbucks, NOM has announced an alternative to the ubiquitous coffee house: Jitters and Bliss coffee. Now when you feel an urge for a caramel macchiato, instead of dropping in to a Starbuck you can instead go online and order a tin of coffee (comparably priced to Starbucks), wait for it to be delivered (shipping free with $50 purchase), brew it up, and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee free from the guilt of supporting the homosexual agenda. And best of all, that cup of coffee will taste twice as blissful after a week or two of no-caffeine jitters.

More recently, NOM is now charging at the front of a vast cavalcade of boycotters who have vowed to go without General Mills products. That’s right, no Haagen-Dazs, Pillsbury, or Green Giant for them. (Star Tribune)

Minnesota for Marriage leaders are heading into the summer months with a dogged focus on keeping supporters energized and pushing back hard if other Minnesota businesses surface to oppose the amendment.

When General Mills stepped into the fray, Minnesota for Marriage immediately issued news releases that said “the Green Giant, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kix and Trix have all declared war on Marriage” and that the company was promoting “genderless marriage.”

Angela Beeney of Plymouth and 4-year-old Ivy Brandon of Hastings, in foreground, dropped off General Mills products in Golden Valley to protest the company’s opposition to the marriage amendment. - Star Tribune

Not limiting itself to Minnesota, NOM now has 17,764 signatures on the pledge (up from 14,714 on the 28th) and the Fortune 500 company is no doubt seriously regretting its decision to pander to same-sex marriage activists and support that radical social agenda. These true marriage defenders have sworn to ‘look for alternatives’ to the General Mills products, whenever convenient and economically feasible (families are hurting in this Obamaconomy). And although more than 80,000 have signed a petition thanking General Mills for their position, it is strongly suspected that some of those signers are not traditional families anyway, and are not really the food company’s target market.

And the campaign is growing daily. With more and more businesses pledging their endorsement of immorality, NOM has an ever increasing opportunity to stand for righteousness. In fact, just today NOM has been apprised of an opportunity that cannot be missed. Finally, NOM has irrefutable evidence that Microsoft’s profits fund the radical redefinition of marriage. (Seattle Times)

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Bill Gates have each donated $100,000 to the campaign supporting the state’s new gay marriage law, which faces a referendum vote in November.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said Monday that the checks were cut Friday and are being reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission on Monday afternoon.

“It’s going to make a tremendous difference,” Silk said. “It’s very important for us to have that broad support from business leaders and companies themselves.”

We are confident that NOM will soon announce a full-on boycott of all of Microsoft’s products. But they will not be reactionary – recognizing that Apple gave money to oppose Proposition 8, NOM will boldly stand against these both of these two empires of evil and cease using any products or software from either of these companies.

Perhaps as early as today. Or tomorrow. Or maybe next week (strategery takes time), next month, or the second Tuesday in August of 2028. But definitely sometime very very soon they will stand up and show Microsoft and Apple just what happens when you dare to stand against those who fight for marriage, family, and blind obedience to Catholic teaching.

NOM Boycotts Starbucks

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2012

Maggie Gallagher and Johnathan Baker, National Organization for Marriage’s director for what they call “The Corporate Fairness Project,” attended the annual Starbucks shareholder meeting today. Baker, as a Starbucks shareholder, addressed the meeting and took the board to task for the “controversial stand Starbucks has taken here in Washington in support of same-sex marriage.” Citing a Starbucks message endorsing Washington’s Referendum 74, a proposal that would allow marriage equality to take effect in the state, as reflecting Starbucks’ core values as a company, Baker asked if that decision was made by the board of directors and questioned whether the decision would hinder the company’s efforts to expand internationally. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz responded:

Any decision of this type or magnitude has be made with great thoughtfulness and I would assure you that a senior team of Starbucks discussed this. And it was, to be candid with you, not something that was a difficult decision for us and we did share this with some members of the board as well. [Applause and cheers]

I don’t want to answer the question in any way that would be disrespectful to you or other people who might see it differently. I think Starbucks has many constituents, and from time to time we are going to make a decision that we think is consistent with the heritage and the tradition of the company that perhaps may be inconsistent with one group’s view of the world or a decision we may make. I said earlier in my prepared remarks that we’re not perfect, and from time to time we may make a mistake or people may view it as a mistake. But we made that decision, in our view, through the lens of humanity and being the kind of company that embraces diversity.”

And with that, NOM announced their boycott:

“Unlike our opponents, we do not target whole companies for the actions of an individual business executive in that company,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “But Starbucks has taken a corporate position in support of redefining marriage for all of society. We will not tolerate an international company attempting to force its misguided values on citizens. The majority of Americans and virtually every consumer in some countries in which Starbucks operates believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. They will not be pleased to learn that their money is being used to advance gay marriage in society.”

Starbucks Says Approve Ref. 71

Jim Burroway

October 24th, 2009

StarbucksThis comes to us via SLOG:

In a statement, the company said that approving R-71 “ensures that basic benefits and important protections are not taken away from committed couples, so they are able to take care of each other, especially in times of crisis.” Starbucks wants voters to approve the measure “because it is aligned with our business practices, providing domestic partner benefits, and one of our core values of treating people with respect and dignity.” [emphasis in SLOG's post]

Starbucks hasn’t contributed to the campaign, but they did send this message out to their employees. Starbucks has 3,000 employees in its Seattle headquarters and maintains 667 stores in Washington state, and each of them got this statement. That’s quite a venti.

Starbucks’ endorsement follows similar appeals from Microsoft, Boeing, Nike, and many other companies that employ large numbers of people in the Pacific Northwest.

With all the attention being paid to Maine, Washington’s LGBT citizens are feeling ignored. Karen Ocamb says they’re sweating bullets because they may well lose their hard-won Domestic Partnerships. Please show them your love by donating to Approve Ref. 71 today.

APPROVE71