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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Business ethics and same-sex marriage
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Michelle Thomas
2012-02-01

This article shared 5193 times since Wed Feb 1, 2012
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When we think of business ethics, we think of corporations and financial institutions. We perceive them as hopefully having established good business ethics, as seen by their wholesome marketing campaigns backed by mandatory regulations. We search for corporate awards to back good corporate values and equate said values to the potential of monetary gain for stakeholders. As contented consumers, we encourage corporate and financial growth by purchasing products, services and stock options.

We count on legislators and regulators to enact fairness and fine the unlawful. When deviant schemes of the self-interested are exposed and losses come into play, lawmakers pay attention. Laws are enacted and amended for future stakeholder protection. When we think of the institution of marriage, we—unlike corporate and financial institutions—generally think of cultural beliefs instead of financial gains.

Similarly, guidelines and procedures regulate marriage, much like corporate and financial institutions. A marriage license has the same meaning everywhere and—although symbols and rituals can differ—stakeholder protection, accountability and sustainability should be exercised just the same.

How are ethical decisions being made to ensure protection, accountability and sustainability for marriage and its stakeholders? Marriage is at risk and is being compromised. Lawmakers and voters are making decisions, as legislation is considered and votes are cast with personal beliefs of traditional family values and to whom it applies. Two same-sex individuals desiring to marry and who meet the age and genealogical requirements can't wed in most of the United States. For the few states that offer same-sex marriage, there are accompanying limitations that are not imposed upon opposite-sex couples.

If legislation and regulation are to protect all stakeholders, the family unit ( as a stakeholder of marriage ) is at risk. The traditional family is changing. Families are led by same-sex couples with and without children, and those units are not being protected as their heterosexual counterparts are.

At the same time, the human rights of LGBT individuals are subject to him. The human rights to love; to raise a family with the benefits and protections of marriage; and to end life with security and peace are at stake. According to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

Shouldn't marriage be all-inclusive and embrace men and women everywhere? As of July 2011—according to the National Conference of State Legislatures ( NCSL ) —Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Washington, D.C., issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Although these states have legalized same-sex marriage, home-state marriage rights could be terminated or limited through appeals. Travel can be high-risk, as legal, financial and healthcare rights afforded by marriage can become void in certain states.

The sustainability of marriage is at risk. As families change, so do the expectation that marriage benefits and protections need to change as well. Human and legal rights are not being fulfilled. Marriage equality has become a battle of legalization—a battle fueled with self-interest. The self-interest is of the kind that, as we've learned from our corporate and financial institution history, can lead to disaster and collapse.

Compromising legislation in some states has enacted laws of domestic partnerships and civil unions. The NCSL also states that Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island allow civil unions and California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Maine, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia allow domestic partnerships. Illinois has adopted reciprocity legislation, which states in Section 60 of Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, "A marriage between persons of the same sex, a civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another jurisdiction, shall be recognized in Illinois."

While the actions of a few states recognizing same-sex marriage and reciprocity can be perceived as good, ethical business decision-making for the rights of all men and women and the sustainability of marriage, they can also be perceived as unethical, as these decisions can isolate, violate and cause negative messaging. Marriage has wrongfully become a state-level battleground for the gated, privileged and bigoted. Legislation may not change beliefs, but can protect the rights of those who are subject to bigotry.

Michelle Thomas is an Illinois resident and native Chicagoan. She earned a masters degree in business ethics and compliance. She hopes to advocate communication and activism of same-sex marriage.


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