August 15, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Washington United for Marriage announced yesterday that the outdoor retailer REI has endorsed marriage equality in a blog post written by Sally Jewell, the company’s CEO and President, to its more than 11,000 employees. The national retailer, which is headquartered in Kent, Washington, about halfway between Seattle and Tacome, joins other major Washington-based companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft in support of Referendum 74, the ballot initiative that would uphold Washington’s recently passed marriage equality bill. In her blog post, Jewell wrote:
For heterosexual couples, it is very easy to take for granted the legal and societal benefits of marriage—health care benefits, retirement benefits, insurance, death benefits, healthcare decisions, child-rearing and custody, and many more, not to mention the meaning of the commitment of marriage that was so vivid to us as we introduced each other as husband or wife for the first time. As executrix of my mother’s estate, the legal benefits of marriage in estate and health issues became even clearer to me over the past year.
Marriage equality is important to the co-op because the benefits, legal clarity and societal understanding that Warren and I have enjoyed these past 34 years should be available to any two people who want to express their love and make a permanent commitment to each other that is so clearly provided for in the legal definition of marriage.
When I joined REI in 2000, I realized what it was like to work in a place that was inclusive of people without regard to their sexual orientation. This was not the case early in my career as an engineer, nor in the 19 years I spent in banking. In those years, I witnessed the challenge that my colleagues experienced—where seemingly simple questions about relationships, children, or even weekend activities could become delicate and difficult to answer, because being “out” was dangerous to one’s career.
I am proud of the inclusive environment that REI creates for our LGBT teammates and customers, and recognize that this is a continuing journey for all of us as we strive to be increasingly inclusive across all of the dimensions of diversity. The investment we have made in inclusion training across the organization is an important step in this journey.
As we come into the last few months before the November election and the several ballot measures that will decide the fate of marriage equality in states from Washington to Maryland, supportive, positive statements from business leaders like Sally Jewell help make the case that equal marriage rights aren’t just good for gays and lesbians, they’re good for all of us.