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By Joel Connelly
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Referendum 74, the measure on November’s ballot that would make Washington the nation’s seventh state to legalize civil marriage between same-sex couples.
“There is a clear business case for supporting equal access to civil marriage rights,” said George Allen, the Chamber’s vice president for government relations.
“Marriage equality allows companies to streamline benefit administration, improves our members’ ability to recruit and retain the best talent, and helps our state’s bottom line,” he added.
Specifically, the Chamber said same-sex marriage would “improve recruiting efforts for state businesses, which compete against companies in states like Massachusetts and New York that have extended civil marriage rights to same sex couples.”
Zach Silk, campaign manager for marriage equality, reacted to the Chamber’s backing by saying: “It’s very important for people to realize that defending the new marriage law and approving Referendum 74 is not only good for all Washington families, it’s good for business, too.”
No state has ever voted for marriage equality, although in 2009 Washington voters ratified Referendum 71, the civil unions legislation that extended almost all benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.
But the 2012 election may change all that. Washington, Maryland and Maine voters will find marriage equality on their fall ballots. Polls show the measures leading in Washington and Maine.
In Maryland, same-sex marriage faces powerful opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. But a recent poll showed increasing support among African-American voters since President Obama came out May 9 in favor of marriage equality.
The Chamber’s position gives Referendum 74 support from business, labor and Democratic groups that frequently find themselves adversaries on other issues.