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Mormon-founded Marriott joins push against anti-gay marriage law

January 28, 2013|By David Colker
  • An image from the Marriott website promoting hotel facilities for gay weddings. Although founded by a Mormon, the company has joined a coalition of businesses urging the repeal of a federal anti-gay marriage measure.
An image from the Marriott website promoting hotel facilities for gay weddings.… (Marriott International )

One of the nation's leading gay-rights advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, has formed a coalition of major companies calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It's no surprise, of course, that the HRC in Washington would use its considerable clout to organize big businesses to fight DOMA, the law that excludes recognition of same-sex marriages.

What will be a surprise to many is that one of the first companies to join the effort was Marriott International Inc., which was founded by a devout Mormon, John Willard Marriott.

His son Bill, also a devout member of the religion, is the current executive chairman and chairman of the board of the hotel company, and several other family members have major ownership interests.

The official stance of the Mormon church is against gay marriage, and Mormons poured a lot of money and other resources into backing Proposition 8, the 2008 California measure that banned gay marriages in the state.

But David Rodriguez, an executive vice president at Marriott and its chief human resources officer, was quoted by the HRC as saying, "We are proud of our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equal treatment of all our employees within our benefits programs.

"Joining the business coalition for DOMA repeal affirms that commitment."

Indeed, Marriott's website promotes sales to gay customers with the line, "We invite you, to be you, with us." And it promotes hotel facilities for use in gay weddings and civil ceremonies.

In an interview last year with Business Insider, Bill Marriott explained that he personally believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. But he said he does not mix his views on the subject with operation of the business.

"We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else," Bill Marriott said."We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect."

He further pointed out, "Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and we're probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don't drink. We serve a lot of liquor."

Other companies in the coalition at its launch, according to the HRC, include Aetna, EBay, Bristol-Myers  Squibb and Electronic Arts. 

ALSO:

Gay marriage chronology

Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court

Obama's inaugural speech gives hope to gay marriage supporters

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