Google and Levi’s oppose same-sex marriage ban

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

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11 Responses to Google and Levi’s oppose same-sex marriage ban

  1. tbrrob says:

    Sounds like a bad idea to me.

  2. jameshigham says:

    Pity these corporations are misguided.

  3. Rick says:

    Rob, James –

    Do you think this is a bad idea because you agree with the ban on same-sex marriage or because you think companies shouldn’t take public stances on political issues?

  4. Deb Acle says:

    What else do you think may be going on? Some sort of deal with State of California?

    Quite apart from the fact that this Proposition if enacted would likely bring many complications to those who have already married according to the law, it’s a blow against their dignity. Not only that, the marriage law will inevitably be re-enacted sometime in the future. If I were California, I’d be voting against Proposition 8. I agree, it’s about equality. And people who love others of their own gender are not going away!

  5. Rick says:

    Deb – by ‘something else going on’ I wasn’t suggesting some sort of conspiracy, although reading what I wrote again I can see why people might interpret it that way.

    No, I was just wondering whether this is, in some way, a calculated business decision – e.g. trying to pitch for the pink dollar, or whether the senior people in these companies really are acting according to their beliefs, which is something most corporations tend to avoid. Even senoir executives are usually expected to leave their personal views at the door.

    For the record, I can’t see why people object to same-sex couples being given the same legal rights as everyone else. I find it even more surprising that some self-declared libertarians support a proposal to take these rights away.

  6. Morris G. Monkus says:

    While Ford Motor Company supported such nonsense I did not buy a Ford product.

    I do not have to buy Levi’s and certainly do not have to use Google at all and I have many friends on the internet and locally that will feel the same way.

    For a company to take a position either pro or con is the height of business stupidity and makes you wonder what the higher ups in the company is practicing.

    I will give them a short while to come to their senses and then I will be through with the bunch. I know that I won’t hurt them as such but there are many people that belive just like I do.

    We are not asking them to take any stand, just stay neutral – that is practice good business sense.

  7. sheerdebacle says:

    Thanks for clarification, Rick.

    I can see how Morris says that it does not seem to make business sense. But the pink dollar is very powerful. And commercial bodies have been aligning themselves with causes and factions since business began – overtly or covertly.

  8. Amulek says:

    And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.

  9. Rick says:


    And your point is?

  10. Nick says:

    And their corporate strategy is… ? On such a divided issue, that is not a good idea.

  11. Rick says:

    Nick – that’s what makes me think that perhaps they actually mean it. I can’t see how this could simply be a cynical business ploy.

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