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Gay Marriage Victories – Good for Friendly Businesses?

8 November 2012 in Trading Ideas

Tuesday’s election had several big winners: Barack Obama, fans of recreational cannabis use – and proponents of gay marriage.

In Minnesota, voters defeated a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would have defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman – the first time that voters of any state voted against such an amendment.

In the state of Washington, the move to legalize same-sex marriage was narrowly ahead as final votes were being counted, after two other states, Maine and Maryland, passed it on Tuesday. This is the first time such unions have been legally passed by ballot, according to the Huffington Post. More importantly, it breaks the streak of 32 losses in states on similar measures, going back to 1996.

It seems safe to say that the national consciousness has turned on gay marriage. Even before this year’s election results, national polls had shown that more than half of Americans now support gay marriage. That’s quite a change from 1996, when the number of supporters was below 30%.

For some investors, however, they’ve already been casting “ballots” for gay marriage under the broad umbrella of socially responsible investing. This is the part of the market that focuses on combining the age-old profit motive with the overall impact on society.

Traditionally, that has meant investors looking to avoid companies that harm the environment, cooperate with oppressive global regimes or produce nuclear weapons. Increasingly, however, as the market has grown in size and sophistication, it has also meant investing in “good” corporate actors, according to a corporate social responsibility index. If you like a company’s policies regarding its domestic-partner coverage of employees, for example, you’d invest in them.

This is the philosophy behind the new Socially Responsible motif, which is based on ideas from the book Low Fee Socially Responsible Investing by Tom Nowak. The motif comprises companies that score high on social responsibility indexes and political contribution disclosure measures.

The new motif brings to life the idea that socially responsible investing continues to gain traction. According to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, the total dollars under professional management in socially responsible investing grew to $3.07 trillion in 2010 from $639 billion in 1995, outpacing the overall market.