Most large corporations stay out of politics, or, at least, they don’t get overtly involved. A company’s priority is making money and there is no point in alienating potential customers by pontificating about political issues.
But two famous California firms have publically opposed a plan to end same-sex marriage in the state. Google and Levi-Strauss have joined the fight against Proposition 8, an amendment to California’s constitution which, if passed, would withdraw the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin wrote on his blog:
[W]hile there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.
A cynic might say that this stance is totally consistent with Google’s hip, libertarian, West Coast brand image. Perhaps, but Sergey Brin has already alienated a lot of people by coming out so strongly in support of gay marriage. From a commercial perspective, surely both Google and Levi’s would have less to lose by keeping quiet.
Could this be a case of corporations having a social conscience, something Milton Friedman said was nigh-on impossible, or is something else going on?
The vote will be on 4 November, the same day as the presidential election. Opinion polls indicate that the result will be close.
Hat Tip: Laurie Ruettimann