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Illinois Business Leaders back marriage equality
From a press release
2013-01-13

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On Jan. 13, 50 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. A copy of today's letter can be found below.

An Open Letter from Illinois Business Leaders on Marriage Equality

Many factors go into creating a state's business environment. Perhaps most important is a state's ability to attract top talent from around the world. Since human capital drives innovation and growth, a state must foster an environment where people want to live.

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

Marriage equality would strengthen the workforces of Illinois employers, who know there is no substitute for employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Companies must understand a changing marketplace and be able to connect with their customers; having a diverse workforce is a part of that. That's one reason many employers have adopted non-discrimination policies and offer domestic partner benefits.

Marriage equality promotes economic development, too. 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. States with the metro areas of New York City, Seattle, Boston, and Baltimore have already legalized marriage equality. 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.

The Illinois legislature should act now. It's the right thing for Illinois.

Signed,

Curt Bailey, President, Related Midwest

Andrew Bluhm, Founder and Principal, Delaware Street Capital

Neil G. Bluhm, Founder and Managing Principal, Walton Street Capital

Norm Bobins, Former CEO, LaSalle Bank; Chairman, PrivateBank and Trust Co.

Bill Brandt, President and CEO, Development Specialists, Inc.

Carole Brown, Senior Managing Director, Barclays Capital

Lewis B. Campbell, Chairman and CEO, Navistar International

Chicago Urban League

Lance Chody, CEO, Garrett Popcorn Shops

Philip B. Clement, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Aon plc

Hon. William M. Daley

Laura Desmond, CEO, Starcom Mediavest Group

Fred Eychaner, Chairman, Newsweb Corporation

Paul S. Fisher, President and CEO, CenterPoint Properties

Albert M. Friedman, CEO and President, Friedman Properties, Ltd.

Google Inc.

Peter Gottlieb, President, North Star Investment Management Corporation

Groupon

David A. Helfand, CEO, Helix Funds

Carrie Hightman, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, NiSource Inc.

Mellody Hobson, President, Ariel Investments, LLC

Fred Hoch, CEO, Illinois Technology Association

Mark S. Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Kym Hubbard, CIO and Treasurer, Ernst & Young

Ron Huberman, Executive Chair, TransitPro Logistics, Inc.

Illinois Science & Technology Coalition

Knight Engineers & Architects

William Lawless, President, The Gage & Henri Restaurants

Joseph Mansueto, Founder and CEO, Morningstar Inc.

Matt Moog, Founder and Chairman, Built In Chicago

Maura O'Hara, Executive Director, IVCA

Orbitz Worldwide Inc.

Sarah Pang, Senior Vice President, Corporate

Richard S. Price, Chairman and CEO, Mesirow Financial

Quintin E. Primo III, Chairman and CEO, Capri Capital Partners, LLC

J.B. Pritzker, Co-Founder and Co-Lead, The Pritzker Group

Gigi Pritzker Pucker, OddLot Entertainment

Doug Regan, Midwest Regional Director, J.P. Morgan

Judith C. Rice, Senior Vice President, BMO Harris Bank

Laura Ricketts, Director, Chicago Cubs, Chairman of the Board, Chicago Cubs Charities

Desiree Rogers, CEO, Johnson Publishing Company

John W. Rogers, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Ariel Investments, LLC

John W. Rowe, Chairman Emeritus, Exelon Corporation

Michael Sacks, CEO, Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P.

Harrison I. Steans, Chairman of the Executive Committee, Financial Investments Corp.

Jay Stieber, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.

Rich Stoddart, President, Leo Burnett North America

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Estelle Walgreen, Founder, Hispanically Speaking News

Tony Weisman, Regional President, Digitas

Communications and Public Affairs, CNA Financial Corp.

*Individuals listed as signatories represent themselves only.


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