Viacom Takes Stance Favoring Same-Sex Marriage

Of course, Viacom is going to publicly oppose a law restricting rights of same-sex couples to marry. It’s part of lefty Hollywood, right?

No.

Its action could not have been knee-jerk, there was thougtful principle involved.

Viacom has billions of dollars at stake. Yes, it has a network aimed at gay and lesbian audiences (Logo) and a show some might say features a liberal activist masquerading as a comedian (Jon Stewart). But, it also has Nickelodeon and MTV, which collect a lot of viewers from people who think MoveOn.org is focused on what to when a relationship ends.   

Viacom this month joined with dozens of other entities in filing a court brief expressing opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Also, under DOMA, same-sex marriages aren’t recognized by the federal government, which can increase the tax burden on the couples; reduce access to health benefits; and limit opportunities to help care for a sick partner.

CBS also signed on to the amicus brief filed in a federal appeals court. As did an Ogilvy unit of WPP; video-game marketers Electronic Arts and Zynga; and Google.

But this is not just a Hollywood-ish movement. Companies such as the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Diageo and Levi Strauss are on board. All have different business interests, yet have joined together.

Powerful Republicans in Congress favor DOMA. So, why risk rocking the boat?

More immediately, why risk an interest group against same-sex marriage calling for boycotts and launching a PR campaign charging the media company behind “Jersey Shore” is taking an immoral stance?

The amicus brief does lay out a self-interest case why DOMA hurts businesses because there is a disconnect between laws in some states and federal legislation. So what a Viacom or a Blue Cross or a Starbucks could gain from a repeal. The filers say that DOMA forces a company to keep separate records; increases tax payments; can necessitate hiring expensive compliance firms; and bring a need for added employee training.  

But look past that and the argument that DOMA can injure the ability to “attract, retain and secure a talented work force.” Go to the pointed language making clear there is more on the companies’ minds than bottom lines.

To wit:

DOMA “forces us to discriminate against a class of our lawfully-married employees.”

DOMA brings “invidious treatment of a class of … married employees.”

DOMA “conscripts” a company “to become the face of its discrimination.”

Viacom made reasons behind its position even more clear Wednesday via a simple sentence from one of its lawyers on a corporate blog: “We diligently work towards enhancing our own policies that encourage diversity and equality, and believe that we have a role to play in supporting important efforts to expand these values across the country and around the world.”

Actions speak louder than words, though. (By the way, where were Disney, News Corp. and their brethren in the court document, were they not invited to join?) Viacom’s participation in the brief can be followed up with turning away any ads from Chick-fil-A and other companies that take a stance against same-sex marriage.

On the topic recently, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathay told the Baptist Press: “We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit … We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

(The freedom of speech thing is cool.)

A post-Muppets Jim Henson Co. dropped its relationship with Chick-fil-A in the wake of the comments and Boston’s mayor is trying to block the company from opening in his city.

Interest groups have asked PBS to drop the fast-food company’s sponsorship of children’s programming, but that’s on grounds its food lacks nutritional value.

So, by staying with Chick-fil-A, some conservatives who want to cut PBS’s funding may now have a reason to support it.

Clarification: A TVBlog Wednesday should have noted NBC is not carrying any Olympics events live in prime time, but the network is in daytime hours.

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