Last week, the Board of Directors for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce voted to approve a resolution in support of marriage equality. The chamber, the largest organization of companies in Broward County, with more than 1,400 member businesses, has chosen to support same-sex marriage as a way to attract gay-friendly companies to South Florida.
The chamber is making an effort to reassure companies that are looking to relocate that their diverse work forces will be able to live in a place where they and their families will be treated equally. The chamber intends to contact and inform appropriate organizations and individuals regarding its position while the issue of Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is challenged in the courts.
"Marriage equality makes great business sense for our state and our community," Dan Lindblade, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, said in a public statement. "Simplification of benefits administration, a competitive edge on hiring top talent, growing an already diverse and strong tourism marketplace, and protecting the strong economic engine related to gay and gay-friendly businesses are just a few reasons why we support this reform."
Another reason Fort Lauderdale's chamber has positioned itself in favor of marriage equality is because of the impact same-sex marriage would have on the local and state economy. According to a recent study by UCLA's Williams Institute titled Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Florida, Florida's economy would get a considerable economic boost from extending the right to marry to same-sex couples: about $182.2 million within the first three years it is legalized.
"I'm very proud of the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce for their support of marriage equality. This is a very important issue for the LGBT community, and it's great the chamber of commerce understands the concerns of couples and is forward-thinking," said Connie Siu, an LGBT activist who is working to bring marriage equality to Florida. "I believe their support also stems from the fact that same-sex marriage is projected to bring in tens of millions of dollars to the state's economy and would help to attract big business players to the area."
Heather Brassner, a local businesswoman who is challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage, believes the chamber's resolution to support marriage equality will help to ensure all families in Broward feel respected.
"I think it's great that the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce has decided to make an official statement in support of marriage equality. It shows that people are moving toward a place of human dignity for all. The chamber's statement, I believe, will bring more gay-friendly businesses to the area, and I also believe it will bring more customers to the area because everyone will feel welcome and wanted."
Currently, Fort Lauderdale's chamber of commerce is the first non-LGBT chamber in Florida to take this initiative in promoting gay rights. LGBT advocates expect more chambers across Florida to follow suit, especially now that there have been several court decisions ruling in favor of recognizing same-sex marriage.