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Marriage equality across the US will help businesses owned by gay couples

Marriage equality across the US will help businesses owned by gay couples

Thomas Sanchez and Anthony Shop

Ahead of an expected ruling in the new few weeks, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is one of many advocate groups lobbying the US Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality.

This week, NGLCC highlighted the fact that it represents many businesses that are owned by gay couples – individuals more directly affected by the discrepancy in marriage laws.

One such couple are Anthony Shop and Thomas Sanchez, who run the tech company, Social Driver.

‘We started Social Driver five years ago and now employ nearly 40 people, including, of course, straight people with families who depend on us to run the business at maximum efficiency. It’s ridiculous that same states recognize our marriage and others don’t,’ said Sanchez in a statement.

Sanchez and Shop met each other in Kansas in December 2007 after being introduced by friends. They launched Social Driver in January 2011 and married in June 2012.

Social Driver, which has headquarters in Washington DC and smaller offices in Lawrence, Kansas and Bellingham, Washington, specializes in creating websites and social media campaigns to help businesses achieve their goals.

Gay Star Business spoke to Shop, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, to find out more detail on the way that marriage inequality impacts upon their business.

‘As business owners, the last thing we need is more uncertainty in the regulatory environment, and this is what’s going on right now – there’s just uncertainty and we don’t know what it might mean or how if might affect us in different jurisdictions.’

‘I can remember that difference in before and after we were married, just the way that we filed taxes and paper work on ownership, there were lots of different ways we had to do things and different rules we had to work around. Now that we’re married in the District of Columbia, and this is our primary residence, those things have gotten less complicated for us.’

Tax returns are something that will be prominent in many US business owners minds this week, given that they had until 14 April to file their annual return online.

Human Rights Campaign also highlighted the fact that the uneven recognition of same-sex marriages across the US can prove a headache for many couples who run businesses together.

‘For many legally married, same-sex couples, tax day is an annual, official reminder that your home state believes your family just isn’t as good as your neighbors,’ said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a statement.

‘Complying with the nonsensical regime of tax requirements caused by the lack of recognition of legal marriages by some states can be a frustrating, time consuming, and expensive undertaking.’

Shop also says that the differing laws between states would also make the couple think carefully over where they might choose to expand.

‘I’m not going to want to expand my business somewhere that there’s an uncertain environment because it just adds risk and complications for me.

‘On top of that, do I want to expand my business somewhere I feel that the environment isn’t conducive to my personal life? Not favorable to my husband and our marriage, or our business and taxes?’

Shop points out that, depending on which state you reside in, filing a tax return as a couple, as opposed to two separate individuals, can affect the amount of tax you pay. He and his partner also travel for business, and have experienced problems when re-entering the US at customs.

‘We re-entered the United States and we thought we could fill out one form for our re-entry, and we were basically stopped at the booth and told, “Sorry, we don’t recognize you as a married couple.” And I had to stand off to the side and I had to complete another form on my own.

‘It’s just another example of the type of things, from the paperwork to state level, that I can imagine people having to go through.’

NGLCC is a not-for-profit advocacy group that represents gay-owned businesses across the US and campaigns to expand economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people. It was one of the 379 organizations and businesses that signed a friend-of-court brief to the Supreme Court in March requesting that it rule in favor of marriage equality.

The companies concerned say that have discrepancies in marriage laws across the US creates complications in providing consistent staff policies and creates administrative burdens.

‘NGLCC certifies businesses each week as being LGBT-owned; this helps these small businesses market themselves to our 140 corporate partners who want to increase the diversity in their supply chains,’ says Justin Nelson, president, NGLCC in a statement about the organization’s lobbying.

‘Why would the Supreme Court want to take a giant step backward in these efforts?’

Gay Star Business asked Nelson how gay couples who own businesses together might benefit from marriage equality.

‘First, there is just the righteousness of the issue. When a couple decides to unite in marriage, we expect that marriage to be recognized as legal and binding in every state.

‘On a practical level, we now have an estimated 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses in the U.S., many of them owned by same-sex couples. They work in all 50 states, yet their marriages are banned in 13 of those states.

‘That is not how our republic operates – we are states united in a common set of laws and practices.’

SCOTUS is expected to take up the case this summer.