Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, REI and Others Speak Out on Congress Passing Bill Protecting Same-Sex Marriage

The retail industry is responding to a landmark action in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrines protections for same-sex and interracial marriage, requiring that all 50 states recognize these unions under federal law. The legislation previously was approved by the Senate in late November and is expected to be signed quickly by President Joe Biden.

In response to the news, Macy’s Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette — one of only a handful of openly gay Fortune 500 CEOs — issued a very personal statement: “My husband and I are heartened by the congressional bipartisan approval of the Respect for Marriage Act and we’re grateful for the work of the Human Rights Campaign and others to protect the rights and privileges of millions so every one is equal in the eyes of the law.”

The Respect for Marriage Act received bipartisan support in Congress, with 39 Republican House members and 12 GOP Senators crossing party lines to back the bill.

However, fashion designer Kenneth Cole took aim at those who opposed the legislation in a tweet that read: “Those against same-sex marriage aren’t thinking straight.”

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalized same-sex marriage, and interracial unions have been legal in the U.S. since 1967. However, the court’s recent decision to repeal Roe v. Wade — which overturned women’s constitutional rights to an abortion — fueled fear among many in the LGBTQ+ community that marriage equality could be at risk as well, especially after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas raised the prospect of overturning those and other rights in a concurring opinion in the abortion case this summer.

In its statement regarding the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, REI Co-op highlighted the need to take more action to support the LGBTQ+ community.

“REI Co-op applauds the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which mandates federal recognition for same-sex and interracial marriages,” the company said in a public message. “The LGBTQ+ community has been facing an increased assault over the past few years as some state legislatures and courts have taken actions to strip basic rights.”

It went on to add: “However, this bill is not enough. We can and must do more to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people across the country. Such legislation is already under consideration: The Equality Act would protect LGBTQ+ individuals under existing civil rights laws, ensuring protection from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education and other areas of public life. The bill would also deepen civil rights protections for women, people of color and people living with disabilities.”

The company noted that it will continue to advocate for its employees’ rights and support the Equality Act through the REI Cooperative Action Network.

Similarly, technology company The Knot Worldwide, which specializes in wedding planning, announced it would mark the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act by making a donation split across local organizations that advocate for LGBTQIA rights. CEO Tim Chi wrote in a post on LinkedIn, “We actively supported this legislation because we believe marriage equality is a fundamental right that directly impacts the lives of the couples we serve, our wedding pros and our employees.”

In his official statement regarding the bill, President Biden issued his own call to action: “On this day, Jill and I are thinking of the courageous couples and fiercely committed advocates who have fought for decades to secure nationwide marriage equality at the Supreme Court and in Congress. While we are one step closer on our long journey to build a more perfect union, we must never stop fighting for full equality for LGBTQI+ Americans and all Americans.”

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