Illinois Business Leaders Urge Legislators to Pass Freedom to Marry Bill

CONTACT:

Bernard Cherkasov, Equality Illinois – 312.520.4919
Erik Roldan, Lambda Legal – 312.545.8140
Edwin C. Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois – 312.201.9740, x305

CHICAGO – JANUARY 13, 2013  – Today, fifty Illinois business leaders and organizations joined in urging the General Assembly to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would grant gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry.

The support represents a broad array of economic sectors, including manufacturing, financial services, energy, lodging, publishing and advertising.  In a public letter to the General Assembly, the signers cite the economic and business reasons for passing marriage equality legislation. They contend marriage equality would strengthen the workforces of Illinois employers and attract additional economic development.

“To be competitive, a state must create an equitable, fair and respectful environment for all of its citizens,” the 50 supporters wrote. “For this reason – among others — it is vitally important that Illinois lawmakers enact marriage equality soon.”

The supporters include such companies as Google Inc. and Orbitz Worldwide Inc., as well as many noteworthy business leaders, including:

Lewis B. Campbell, Chairman and CEO, Navistar International
Mellody Hobson, President, Ariel Investments, LLC
Mark S. Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Joseph Mansueto, Founder and CEO, Morningstar Inc.
Richard S. Price, Chairman and CEO, Mesirow Financial
Desiree Rogers, CEO, Johnson Publishing Co. LLC
John W. Rowe, Chairman Emeritus, Exelon Corporation
Michael Sacks, CEO, Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P.

Nine states allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, the letter notes. Illinois must compete against those states to attract the best and the brightest employees. In part because of the impact on their states’ competitiveness, business leaders played a crucial role in recent efforts to secure the freedom to marry in New York and Washington states.

Nationally, well-known brands such as Alcoa, Inc.; Amazon.com, Inc.; The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Morgan Stanley, Starbucks Corp. and Xerox Corp. have stated their support for marriage equality.

In their letter to the General Assembly, the Illinois business leaders implore legislators to consider the financial benefits marriage equality would bring to Illinois’ economy and the potential revenue for the State of Illinois. Studies show that marriage equality in Illinois would generate tens of millions of dollars in increased economic activity in tourism, hospitality and other sectors. According to the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, allowing same-sex couples to marry would generate between $39 million and $72 million in revenues for Illinois businesses, creating $4.5 million to $8 million in new sales and lodging tax revenues over three years.

“The American people are increasingly supportive of marriage equality, with a majority believing same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. We agree with them,” the letter states. “Illinois simply cannot afford to be less competitive than other states. The Illinois legislature should act now. It’s the right thing for Illinois.”

In Illinois, a Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll found the number of people who support same-sex marriage has increased ten points in two years, while the percentage of those opposing recognition of gay unions has declined by more than six points. Another poll, from May 2012, found that 54% of Illinoisans support marriage for gays and lesbians, compared to 40% opposed.

The Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is sponsored by Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago). Illinois Unites for Marriage – a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois – released today’s letter. Illinois Unites is marshaling statewide support for the bill and has attached a copy of today’s letter to this release.

Individuals listed as signatories represent themselves only. For additional information, contact Eric Herman at 773.405.8124.