Disney has a lot of work to do to clean up their reputation after they reportedly donated to all the backers of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill earlier this year. Next on the company’s agenda, according to the hollywood reporter, is signing an open letter in support of codifying some same-sex marriage rights into federal law.
The open letter is spearheaded by the Human Rights Campaign, and Disney is just one of a handful of Hollywood studios participating. With more than 170 signatories representing more than 5.3 million employees, the letter urges the United States Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.
“Americans from all walks of life, of all demographics, geographies, and partisanship agree that loving and committed couples have a right to be respected and protected by law,” the letter says. “As many of us highlighted in our support of Marriage Equality in 2015, a patchwork of inconsistent and discriminatory state marriage laws runs counter to our company values and makes it difficult for us to do business and recruit and retain top talent.”
Officially called HR 8404 in the House and S. 4556 in the Senate, the Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act in its entirety; Passed in 1996, DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing married same-sex couples under state law in more than 1,000 contexts, such as immigration purposes or extension of benefits to spouses of military personnel. DOMA also specified that states had no legal obligation to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states.
Disney joins other major companies, including Sony, Comcast NBCUniversal and Apple, in supporting the pro-LGBTQ+ rights bill, which the ACLU has already called “the most pro-LGBTQ vote” in Congress. “Codifying a consistent and inclusive federal standard…will help ensure marriage equality, eliminate confusion for employers, and allow us to retain and attract talent,” the letter continues. “No one, including same-sex couples and interracial couples protected by this bill, should fear that their marriage will not be recognized by the federal government or that their employment benefits will be threatened.”
In the 2013 Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, SCOTUS ultimately rejected the federal recognition element of DOMA, meaning same-sex couples had access to benefits such as Social Security, equal tax treatment, or spousal sponsorship for citizenship. However, after the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion implied that SCOTUS could also seek to overturn gay marriage decisions.
The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to protect many of the federal marital rights established through Windsor for existing marriages, it does not cover all of the rights established by the landmark 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, which guarantees same-sex couples the federal right to marry. If that case is overturned, states could ban same-sex couples from marrying.
“Codifying a consistent and inclusive federal standard conferred by the Loving, Windsor, and Obergefell rulings will help ensure marriage equality, eliminate confusion for employers, and allow us to retain and attract talent,” the letter continues. “No one, including same-sex couples and interracial couples protected by this bill, should fear that their marriage will not be recognized by the federal government or that their employment benefits will be threatened.”
Disney has had to do a bit of damage control this year amid the “Don’t Say Gay” bill controversy: They promised a $5 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign, which the advocacy group refused to to accept. Then, after a group of Pixar animators wrote an open letter accusing the company of censoring same-sex affection in its movies, they restored a brief same-sex kiss that had reportedly been cut. of Light-year. However, Disney also recently announced that it would allow political ads on Hulu, which is sure to open another can of worms.