shutterstock_45839719In the global economy of the twenty-first century, a globally mobile workforce is critical to remaining competitive. Yet for LGBT employees, their families, and their employers, significant barriers remain in place. The Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in United States v. Windsor finding part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional has clear and direct benefits for married same-sex couples, including bi-national couples. But beyond the benefits to married couples themselves, the Court’s decision is also a win for economic competitiveness. Specifically, the DOMA ruling makes U.S. businesses more globally competitive because they now can attract and retain foreign-born employees who want to stay in the United States with their same-sex spouses. 

Indeed, a 2013 report by Out on the Street and Immigration Equality found that the DOMA exclusion of LGBT families created personal and business challenges, particularly related to recruiting and retaining talent. In particular, the report found that 42 percent of organizations surveyed said they missed out on hiring opportunities because U.S. immigration law precluded the prospective employee from bringing his or her same-sex partner into the country. Survey respondents also commented:

  • “We have had people choose to work in other countries – and for other employers – because the U.S. would not support the immigration of the life partner.”
  • “We have both external new hires that we have missed out on due to this fact, but more importantly we have had internal transfers even at the executive level that we have not been able to proceed with, as the U.S. does not federally recognize same-sex partners or spouses. We have had much success placing these employees in various EU countries or Australia.”

Prior to the Court’s DOMA ruling, hundreds of businesses and organizations had already landed in support of marriage equality by filing a brief arguing that DOMA is bad for business. Take, for example, the following comments the survey compiled:

  • “As a global employer with operations around the world, access to and mobility of talent is critical to our success. Immigration restrictions imposed on LGBT families in any one country – be it the U.S. or anywhere else – are an issue for the entire business.” – Mark McLane, Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays
  • “We don’t want to see our employees separated from their families. We want these skilled workers to be able to live here where they can help grow our businesses and expand our economy.” – Scott Corley, Executive Director, Compete America

In the past, some businesses and organizations may have lost the opportunity to recruit talented individuals if that meant being separated from their families. In addition, firms in the U.S. may have been unable to retain talented and high-skilled workers already under their employment when the employee decided to choose family unity over remaining at his or her job. Those from the United States who made that decision are part of a diaspora of LGBT Americans who discovered their only option under DOMA was to uproot from their own country and become an exile in order to be able to live with their foreign-born partners. Talented and skilled employees reluctantly deciding to leave their jobs and take their talents overseas to be reunited with their spouses represent a loss to the United States.

The important benefits the Court’s decision and the end of DOMA bring to many same-sex bi-national couples and their families are enormous and positive. Businesses located in states with marriage equality may now have an even easier time attracting the high-skilled talent they need to grow and remain competitive. Fewer families will have to make impossible decisions between family, career, and country. But the decision also allows a little more freedom for businesses to attract and retain the talent they need and for individuals to feel more excited about accepting a job offer or remaining in a job in the United States, knowing that such a decision will not lead to their family being separated.