Apple, Facebook, Google, and hundreds of other companies filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief to urge the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage across all states.

Susan Baker Manning of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius filed the brief on behalf of 379 firms, both multinational firms and small, family-owned businesses from a variety of industries, including technology, banking, entertainment, travel, services, and health care.

The groups argue that inconsistency in state laws regarding same-sex marriage "creates legal uncertainty and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers, and requires differential employer treatment of employees" and "breeds unnecessary confusion, tension, and diminished employee morale."

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that provide equal access to marriage to all couples. In 21 states, same-sex couples can only marry when they challenge federal court restrictions on same-sex marriage. The remaining 13 states continue to prohibit same-sex marriage or refuse to recognize valid the marriage of same-sex couples.

The fragmented legal framework, says the brief, forces companies to work harder and invest more to create administrative systems that recognize otherwise indistinguishable employees and treat them differently. The companies argue that such a system is harmful to employee morale and productivity, while adding uncertainty and wasting the company's resources that would have been spent on its core business.

"Our corporate principles of diversity and inclusion are the right thing to do," the companies say (pdf) in the brief. "Beyond that, however, such policies contribute to employee happiness and loyalty, greater company productivity, and, ultimately, significant returns for our shareholders and owners."

The brief cites a meta-analysis of 36 research studies conducted by the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, which found workplaces that support LGBT rights improved productivity, commitment, job satisfaction, health, and workplace relationships in LGBT employees.

One of the studies included is a 2013 survey of around 300 firms that provide same-sex partnership benefits to employees. According to the study, these firms posted an average of 10 percent share increase over a 16-year period and a "significant improvement in operating performance" compared to other companies that did not provide the same benefits.

The companies also say that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage hinder their ability to recruit world-class talent, whom urban studies theorist Richard Florida says are more likely to live and work in states that have LGBT-friendly laws. Florida calls them the "creative class," which are composed roughly of some 50 million people, including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, academics, artists, and other professionals.

"Our employees are our most valuable assets -- and yet the law treats many of them as second-class citizens," says the brief. "The reality is that even 'small differences in how people are treated ... convey strong messages about [their] perceived relative value."

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage starting in late April. It is expected to issue a decision in June.

Some of the technology companies that filed the brief include Akamai Technologies, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, CloudFlare, Comcast, Dropbox, eBay, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Google, Groupon, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter, Verizon, Xerox, and Zynga.

Photo: Alicia J. Rose | Flickr

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