- Category: Reporter's Notebook
- Published on Friday, 19 October 2012 14:56
- Written by VBJ Staff
By Paul Speer, business consultant
Readers may wonder why an op-ed on R-74 would show up in a business publication such as the Vancouver Business Journal. With 35 years of combined experience working for a Fortune 10 company as well as advising small and medium businesses, I believe that there is a clear business case for voting “Approved” on R-74, better known as Washington’s marriage equality referendum.
More than 500 Washington businesses and organizations share my view, voicing their support in the community and at washingtonunitedformarriage.org. Companies supporting R-74 do so based on their values and a clear understanding of the benefits of operating in communities that value diversity. A relative absence of Southwest Washington businesses endorsing R-74 on washingtonunitedformarriage.org seems a missed opportunity, particularly since I believe that an “Approved” vote supports each of the five economic development goals described in last June’s Clark County Economic Development Plan, authored by TIP Strategies Inc.
In January of this year, the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law estimated that allowing same-sex couples to marry would add an “… $88 million boost to the state and local economy of Washington over the course of three years, with a $57 million boost in the first year alone.” The report further indicated, “This economic boost is likely to add $8 million in tax revenue to state and local coffers, with an estimated $5 million occurring in the first year.” In July of this year Mayor Bloomberg announced “… that one year after the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act, same sex-marriages in New York City have generated an estimated $259 million in economic impact and $16 million in City revenues.” Similar statistics have come from other states after allowing same-sex couples to marry.
These statistics focus on short-term economic uplift to the wedding and tourism industry, but miss a much greater long-term opportunity. Communities and businesses that support diversity gain economically because:
- Same-sex couples with increasing options to live, work or raise families in locations providing true equality, choose those locations.
- The straight population increasingly considers community inclusion in their choice of where to live, work, or raise families; R-74 is not only a same-sex couple issue.
- People choose to remain in a community in part based on the level of acceptance they feel in that community.
- Numerous studies point to the power of diverse perspectives in creating innovative products and services, or solving challenging community problems.
- Customers make choices based on the relative value of products and services, and the values of the company offering them.
- Employers consider community policy and practice when determining new locations to site operations in order to attract and retain employees and customers.
The outcome of R-74 has real and consequential implications for both same-sex couples and the community as a whole. History is clear that policy or practice based on stereotypes and fear ultimately hurts us all.
While I believe that the social equity case for voting “Approved” on R-74 is compelling on its own merits, in deference to VBJ’s mission I have saved it for last. As those on both sides of this debate can agree, the word “marriage” does have meaning in our society bringing both responsibility and privilege. Because of this, policy that places some committed couples in a state sanctioned “separate but equal” (or in the case of Federal law “separate and unequal”) status, based solely on who they are, is inherently inequitable. Future generations will look back at this debate in the same light as past rights debates; the arguments against without merit and those that failed to speak out complicit. Recognizing and respecting all committed couples and their families on equal ground strengthens our community.
Business leaders in Southwest Washington have a unique opportunity to benefit their bottom line and the community with their support for voting “Approved” on R-74.
Paul Speer, married and living in Clark County for the past 30 years, is a former Hewlett-Packard Company VP & general manager. He now provides consulting services for area businesses and nonprofits.