Business groups have shied away from supporting gay marriage, despite its potential economic upside. Instead, advocates are relying on individual business leaders, 25 of whom signed an open letter last week arguing that marriage equality will make the state more attractive to talented workers.
Missing from the letter were the business affiliations of the signatories—which included Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, developer William Rudin and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Chairman Shelly Lazarus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made gay marriage a priority, and polls show a majority of New Yorkers support it, but that has not earned it a broad embrace from the business world.
“It's an issue that remains controversial among a portion of the customer base,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City. “Many businesses are not going to get involved in political advocacy.”
Ms. Wylde signed the letter, but the partnership did not take a position on the matter. A spokesman for the Business Council of New York State said the group does not get involved in social issues.
A 2007 report from the city comptroller's office estimated that allowing same-sex couples to marry would create $184 million in economic activity statewide and add $142 million to the city's economy within three years.
The report said the wedding industry would see the greatest economic boon, followed by hotels and other tourism businesses. In their letter, the business leaders said most employers in the state would benefit by maintaining a more diverse and talented labor pool. They pointed out that many businesses already offer gay workers domestic-partner benefits.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who voted against marriage equality in 2009, is undecided now. “It's inevitable that marriage equality is passed,” he said. “But the economic benefit argument won't sway my vote.”
Mr. Addabbo said gay marriage is a moral and civil rights issue but won't reveal his beliefs. “In the end ... I'll vote the way [my constituents] want.”