Before it was taken over by religious, constitutional and fiscal fundamentalists, the GOP was once the pragmatic party of business. It still is, of course, fitfully – even though its brinksmanship and rank partisanship and fiscal recklessness have hurt businesses hard these last few years. (Imagine where the auto industry would be now if Mitt Romney had had his way). But its insistence on opposing any civil rights for gay couples is beginning to make the business world uncomfortable. This strikes me as an under-noted story among the many Amicus briefs being filed with the Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality. Just as local Virginia businessmen took on the extremist Republican Ken Cuccinelli recently, so too is big business weighing in against discrimination against gays in marriage:

The publicly traded companies backing gay marriage include Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), Alcoa Inc. (AA), American International Group Inc. (AIG), Becton Dickinson & Co., EBay Inc. (EBAY), Marsh & McLennan Cos. (MMC), NCR Corp. (NCR), Nike Inc. (NKE), Oracle Corp. (ORCL), Office Depot Inc. (ODP), Panasonic Corp. (6752), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), Sun Life Financial Inc., Xerox Corp. (XRX), Zynga Inc. (ZNGA), Barnes & Noble Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corp.

A larger group of companies — more than 200, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) — is also poised to side with gay- rights advocates in a second Supreme Court case, involving a federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union. Under that law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, legally married gay couples can’t claim the federal tax breaks and other benefits available to opposite-sex spouses.

The companies in that case are part of a collection of more than 250 employers, including cities, counties and law firms.

These businesses want to attract the best workforces they can. And if they are in states that treat gay couples as second class citizens, they may lose them. The US has already lost major talent because gay spouses of a non-American are forced to live in Western Europe or other parts of the civilized world because of the United States’ refusal to allow any process for gay married citizens to keep their spouse in the country. In the end, the free market matters. And in the end, it wants gay equality.