The Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm has become the latest Minnesota business — and one of the largest — to formally declare its opposition to a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.
“So proud that Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm (my employer) announced formal opposition to anti-marriage amendment,” tweeted Rep. Steve Simon Wednesday night.
The firm’s official spokesperson, Managing Partner Steven Schumeister, confirmed the news this morning and issued this statement:
“Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi has long stood for equal access to government and social justice and equality for all members of society. Throughout its history, RKMC has championed diversity and inclusion as core values of the firm. Therefore, while recognizing and acknowledging deeply held views on both sides of the issue, the executive board voted to formally oppose the amendment since passage of the proposed constitutional amendment would foreclose access to all the state’s branches of government by current and future generations of Minnesotans.”
A law firm with a storied record of advocating civil liberties cases and a rep as an LGBT-friendly workplace comes out against the amendment and it’s news?
The question of clients’ views
Actually, yes. RKMC may be populated by partners, associates and staff who feel passionately about same-sex marriage, but that doesn’t mean their clients — and prospective clients, perhaps more to the point — agree.
The conventional wisdom: Smart business leaders steer clear of “politics.”
Travel back a year to the days following the Legislature’s hotly contested vote to send the proposal to voters. St. Jude Medical and the local concern RBC Wealth Management declared themselves in opposition to the amendment, but they were lone voices in a business wilderness.
But then in July, New York lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage, in large part at the urging of some of the state’s most prominent corporate citizens. Scions of industry everywhere were emboldened.
OK, so maybe not here, and maybe not right away.
Dozens of smaller businesses joined Minnesotans United’s coalition as partners, including Nilan Johnson Lewis, Lockridge Grindal Nauen and 25 smaller law firms.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson led among larger firms
But then in January, Carlson Co.’s Marilyn Carlson Nelson penned an impassioned op-ed for the Star Tribune in which she articulated the cost, both to the empire her family built and to her, personally, of the ban’s passage. The commentary went viral, and Carlson Nelson received a duffel bag stuffed with grateful letters.
Last week, General Mills made headlines by taking a stance against the ballot question, saying it has worked “for decades” to create an inclusive culture and the proposed amendment was bad for those employees and the state’s economy. And CEO Ken Powell donated $10,000 to the main group fighting against the proposition, Minnesotans United for All Families.
Some well-known individual donors
In addition to Powell and Carlson Nelson, the campaign to defeat the amendment recently has cashed checks from Wheelock Whitney and Wheelock Whitney III, former Medtronic CEO Bill George, and members of the Pohlad family.
There’s one more first in RKMC’s immediate future. On Sunday, the firm will enter its first ever float — OK, car would be more accurate — in the Twin Cities Pride festival parade.