Columbia Sportswear And Its CEO Will Endorse Same Sex Marriage

Publicly-traded corporations usually steer clear of controversial political issues out of fear of alienating customers and shareholders. Oregon's largest companies, for instance, sat out Measure 36, the 2004 battle that enacted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

This year, however, Columbia Sportswear will support the proposed 2014 initiative that aims to repeal the ban and legalize same-sex marriage. Backers of the measure are still gathering signatures but it is highly likely to qualify for the ballot.

Several privately-held companies have announced their support for the measure but Columbia, which posted $1.7 billion in revenues last year, is by far the biggest company to take a stand.

Columbia CEO Tim Boyle tells WW he will personally support the measure, as well.

"It doesn't make any sense to exclude people from the constitutional rights they should have," Boyle says. "Frankly, this should have happened a long time ago." 

Boyle, Columbia's largest individual shareholder, says he did not consult his board before deciding to support the measure and to put his company's name behind it. 

"It was not a difficult decision," he says. 

Boyle, who has given nearly $300,000 in state and local races since 2006 says neither he nor the company has yet been asked to contribute to Oregon United for Marriage, the 2014 campaign. 

"We'll review that decision at the time we are asked," he says.