It’s rare that we see a prominent game publisher stepping into the political ring or speaking out on a controversial issue. It’s a risky move for any business that relies on consumer revenue, and potentially alienating part of your target audience can prove detrimental to the company’s bottom line. However, many businesses have openly supported equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals. One of the big hurdles for the LGBT community has been the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the United States, and Electronic Arts (EA) has come forward and publicly opposed this law.
For those unaware, DOMA is a federal law in the United States that defines marriage as being a legal union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriages, while currently legal is six states, are not legally recognized at a federal level. This limits certain benefits that LGBT couples can get, including insurance benefits, Social Security survivor benefits and joint tax returns. A key area where DOMA has proven detrimental to LGBT couples is immigration, as their marriage is not legally recognised and sponsorship for a foreign spouse is not an option. In many cases, this has led to couples being separated and lengthy, and quite costly, legal battles. The DOMA law came into effect in 1996 and is currently under review by the senate, with many people declaring the law unconstitutional.
EA’s stance against DOMA is part of a broader move by the publisher to openly support LGBT rights. Recently, they gave their support to LGBT month and even marched in pride parades in San Francisco and Seattle. Prior to that, EA released a video for the “It Gets Better” project, which is an internet-based outreach campaign to prevent suicides due to gay bullying. In EA’s official statement regarding DOMA, they noted the challenges that DOMA poses to businesses, as well as the discriminatory practices that often arise from it. In addition to publicly lending their support, they are petitioning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to declare the law unconstitutional. In their statement, they also encourage other businesses to follow suit.
As mentioned before, this move does carry an element of risk for EA. Same-sex marriage and LGBT rights are gaining broader acceptance on both the public and political levels, however there are many who still oppose them for various reasons. Taking a stance on a controversial topic can negatively impact a company’s bottom line, however it’s good to see the gaming industry stepping up to the plate on these issues. While gaming and politics generally should not mix, this is one case where some good might come out of it.