Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has joined the Americans for Marriage Equality campaign, becoming the first business leader to participate in the public engagement project from the Human Rights Campaign.
In a 32-second video released Sunday, Blankfein, one of Wall Street's most powerful figures, says, "America's corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and is the right thing to do."
According to The New York Times, the inclusion of Blankfein, a prominent voice from the conservative investment banking industry, represents an attempt by HRC to feature "unexpected messengers" for marriage equality. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, and the video campaign aims to increase public awareness in 2012 as multiple battles loom in state legislatures, at the ballot box, and in the courts. Since it launched late last year, the video-based campaign has included spots from elected officials, civic leaders, celebrities, and athletes.
"But Mr. Blankfein's participation is part of a new national effort by the Human Rights Campaign to enlist atypical advocates," reports the Times. "One set of videos highlighted prominent black Americans, a demographic with especially low support for same-sex marriage. Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark and the comedian and actress Mo'Nique were among the African-Americans who participated. Mr. Blankfein is the first corporate chieftain to represent the organization."
Blankfein, who has led Goldman Sachs since 2006, is not new to marriage equality advocacy on a smaller stage. Last year he joined business leaders in signing an open letter calling for same-sex marriage in New York, and he called lawmakers. He declined to comment on the new campaign to the Times, but he reportedly expressed interest immediately after being approached by HRC through a gay Goldman executive in November.
Goldman Sachs has consistently scored a 100% rating on HRC's Corporate Equality Index. According to the Times, "Under Mr. Blankfein's guidance, Goldman has also pushed employment policies that promote equality. It reimburses employees for the extra taxes they pay on domestic partner benefits. In 2002, the company made headlines for offering gender reassignment operations to employees."
The video promises to generate reaction across the spectrum of opinion. Critics of Blankfein from Occupy Wall Street, who identify him with business practices faulted for the economic downturn, protested HRC's decision to honor Goldman Sachs with its Corporate Equality Award at the organization's annual gala in New York Saturday. On the other hand, he becomes a rare public voice for marriage equality from the buttoned-up investment banking world, where employees acknowledge that being out at work remains more challenging than in some other sectors.