Top American companies, including Microsoft, Nike and Starbucks, have come out against a US law that prohibits the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages.

In total, 70 businesses and organisations filed a brief in federal court highlighting the harms to American companies caused by the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The amicus curiae brief – signed by the companies, also including Google, Time Warner, CBS and Xerox – supports two court cases challenging the denial of federal rights and benefits to married gay and lesbian couples, including a case brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts challenging DOMA’s discrimination against its own citizens.

The companies argue in the court documents that DOMA effects them in a number of ways. These include limiting companies in their ability to offer equal benefits to same-sex married employees and the unfair financial burden that this places on their employees.

They also state that DOMA causes employers to incur administrative burdens and costs, strains the employer/employee relationship and forces the companies to “affirm discrimination they regard as injurious to the corporate mission”.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBT rights organisation, lauded the signatory companies and groups.

“Not only does DOMA hurt families, now we have a clear picture of how it also harms American business,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “With a majority of Americans also opposing this law, the time has come for the federal government to treat all legally married couples equally.”

DOMA prevents couples in states that recognise same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and benefiting from other federal rights connected to marriage. The 1996 law also allows states to refuse to acknowledge gay marriages performed in other states.

President Obama’s administration supports the repeal of the law and is no longer defending it in court.

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