U.S. banks applauded the Supreme Court's decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
Executives at big, regional and community financial institutions described the ruling as just and said it would simplify estate planning for some customers, hiring and other business matters. Many emphasized that it meant public policy was catching up with what are now routine private-sector attitudes.
JPMorgan Chase Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said the decision "is good for our company and clients, but more importantly, it's the right thing to do."
James Gorman, the chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley, said his company backed the decision in favor of marriage equality and said it was consistent with Morgan Stanley's corporate culture.
"Our firm strives to provide employees with an environment that is open and inclusive and celebrates a diversity of ideas and backgrounds," Gorman said in a statement emailed to American Banker.
Other financial institutions took to social media after the court made its announcement. Visa posted a photo on Twitter with a pride flag that said, "Love. Accepted everywhere." MasterCard even changed its logo, giving it a rainbow look.
U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis praised the ruling, while also touting its own corporate policies for gay and lesbian employees.
"Today's Supreme Court ruling is consistent with U.S. Bank's commitment to fairness and inclusion," Jennie Carlson, executive vice president of human resources at the $405 billion-asset company, said in an email. "U.S Bank has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for the past eight years as a top employer for inclusion."
Along with U.S. Bank, other prominent banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have received perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. The index measures how companies treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
Several banks declined to comment on the ruling itself but emphasized their support for diversity in the workplace.
"Recognizing and celebrating diversity is one of PNC's core values. We're committed to creating an inclusive environment," said a spokeswoman for the $340 billion-asset PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution guarantees all couples the right to marry. The decision affirms that all 50 states must now grant same-sex marriages and recognize those performed in other states.
Before the ruling, same-sex marriage was legal in 37 states, mostly due to lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage bans as unconstitutional.
To some, the decision simplified how to approach business when operating both in states that did and did not approve of marriage equality.
"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision provides important consistency and clarity in same-sex marriage laws across our country," Wells Fargo said in an email to American Banker. Wells Fargo recently became the first bank to showcase an LGBT couple in a nation television ad.
C1 Bank CEO Trevor Burgess, the first openly gay CEO of a bank listed on the New York Stock Exchange, reiterated this sentiment, noting that the decision would benefit businesses "by removing the patchwork system of laws that has led to the need for expensive and complex estate planning and legal maneuvering."
He also argued that the Supreme Court's decision could make hiring a whole lot easier.
"Banks, long champions of equality, will now be able to recruit top talent nationwide knowing that their employees will be treated with the dignity afforded all citizens under the Constitution," Burgess said in an email.
For Todd Sears, a former investment banker and founder of Out Leadership, Friday's decision showed that the government has begun to follow the business community's lead when it comes to LGBT issues.
"These decisions mean that the government is catching up to businesses," Sears said. He noted that many financial institutions have long had nondiscrimination policies on the books that included sexual orientation.
Yet the fight for equality is long from over, Sears said. While many in the business community across the country have supported the LGBT community, Sears reiterated that LGBT employees in 29 states can still be fired for their sexual orientation.
"We can celebrate today, but we've got to get back to work tomorrow," he said.
Gay rights also remains a major issue for banks that operate internationally. Some countries have passed harsh anti-gay laws, making homosexuality punishable by jail time and even execution in some cases.
"We will continue to advocate for the equitable treatment of our diverse and global employee base as it allows us to best serve our global clients, customers, shareholders and partners," Citigroup said in an email lauding the Supreme Court decision.
Yet, for those who have fought for same-sex marriage nationwide, including some in financial services, it was a day that provided a great sense of relief.
Julie Goodridge, CEO at NorthStar Asset Management in Boston and lead plaintiff in the Massachusetts case that resulted in it becoming the first state to legalize gay marriage, had nothing but praise for the Supreme Court's decision.
"It is a great day, and a wonderful feeling to be protected by our Constitution," Goodridge, who was honored in 2014 as one of the Most Powerful Women in Finance, said in an email. "I am so proud to have been a part of the struggle for equal marriage along with thousands of other brave families."
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