Feb. 6, 2012 at 12:40 PM ET
Forget babies in slingshots or Betty White. Sunday's most surprising ad wasn't aired during the Super Bowl — it was a YouTube video posted by the Human Rights Campaign in which Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein declared his support for same-sex marriage.
The online video is the latest in a series produced by HRC, a group that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. With its Americans for Marriage Equality campaign, the group has reached out to unexpected spokespeople to advocate for marriage equality. In his spot, Blankfein says that equality is "just good business and is the right thing to do," and counts himself among the "majority of Americans" who support same-sex marriage.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation hasn't weighed in on Blankfein's video. GLAAD is "not issuing a comment on it for now," a spokesman said via email.
The banking industry's conservative reputation makes Blankfein's ad unexpected, although the Goldman chief, who is married with three children, has a history of backing the cause. He joined other corporate titans in signing "An Open Letter From Business Leaders on the Importance of Marriage Equality" last spring, urging New York State lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. (New York passed a law to that end last June, becoming the sixth state in which gay couples can wed.)
Goldman Sachs has been quietly practicing a policy of nondiscrimination internally; for instance, the company pays for the extra taxes gay employees are charged for their partners' health insurance. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Blankfein's participation.
But Blankfein's Americans for Marriage Equality video is the strongest, and most public stand he's taken to date. Whether or not it will mollify critics of Goldman's aggressive business practices and outsized executive compensation packages remains to be seen. After all, Blankfein hasn't often gone on record citing "the right thing to do" as a motivating factor in his corporate decisionmaking.