Google, Groupon, dozens of business leaders back Illinois same-sex marriage bill

Over 50 businesses and business leaders throughout Illinois came out in support of passing legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois in the new legislative session of the General Assembly.

Top executives from Navistar, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Leo Burnett and several others signed an open letter released Sunday, urging state lawmakers to approve the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which was reintroduced after the inauguration of the new General Assembly Jan. 10.

In addition, Google Inc., Groupon, Chicago Urban League, Orbitz Worldwide Inc., Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy and several other notable businesses signed the letter.

The leaders — from a variety of industries such as energy, financial services, manufacturing, advertising and publishing — argue that recognizing gay and lesbian marriages under the law will advance the state’s competitive position. Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.

“States with the metro areas of New York City, Seattle, Boston, and Baltimore have already legalized marriage equality,” the executives wrote. “Here in the Midwest, Iowa has granted full marriage equality, while Minnesota is poised to do the same later this year. Illinois simply cannot afford to be less competitive than other states.”

Specifically, marriage equality will strengthen the workforce, attract skilled workers and bolster economic development, they wrote, and asked the lawmakers to consider the financial benefits of allowing more people to marry.

Legal gay and lesbian nuptials would generate between $39 million and $72 million in revenues for Illinois businesses and would bring in anywhere from $4.5 million to $8 million in new sales and lodging tax revenues over three years, according to research released by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.

Local businesses would also gain tens of millions of dollars in increased tourism, hospitality and other activities that come with marriage ceremonies and receptions, the businesses said.

The executives also contend that voters and the general public increasingly support same-sex marriage rights, especially in Illinois, where a recent study by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute recorded a 10 point swing in support over the last two years. The same study found a six point decline in respondents who outright oppose gay marriage.

“The American people are increasingly supportive of marriage equality, with a majority believing same-sex couples should be allowed to marry,” the letter states. “We agree with them.”

The view the full list of supporting businesses and read the letter to lawmakers, click here.