This past Friday, the New York State Senate approved a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage beginning July 24th. The bill, which just narrowly passed, with just four Republicans voting in favor, was a huge victory for the Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who put up a strong fight to legalize same-sex marriage -- a fight he couldn't have won without the support of three major Republican hedge fund managers: Paul Singer, Dan Loeb, and Cliff Asness.
Combined, all three men (and yes, that's right, they are Republicans) donated more than $1 million to groups that backed the bill. And in addition to the obvious implications to New York's gay and lesbian community (which no doubt had quite a prideful Pride this past weekend), the three's support should also have major implications across the hedge fund industry -- namely the opening of doors to openly gay and lesbian individuals wanting to break into the industry.
Perhaps the most prominent (and wealthiest) of the three hedge fund managers who supported the bill is Singer, who is the head of the Manhattan Institute, a major think tank, as well as Elliott Management, a $16 billion hedge fund. Singer is also perhaps the most vocal supporter of gay rights: he has a gay son who was recently married in Massachusetts, one of the five U.S. states (six, counting New York, come the end of July) where same-sex marriage is legal. And Singer has been quoted as vigorously supporting his son's right to marry.
Loeb, the founder and head of the $5.5 billion hedge fund Third Point LLC, is a surfer, yoga practitioner, art collector, graduate of Cal-Berkeley, and California native -- that is, he's not your average white-collar Wall Street investor. As for Asness, who's perhaps a bit more typical of a highly successful Wall Street manager, he's a Tea Party supporter and ex-Goldman Sachs insider who's known as a quant guru and who has two undergraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA and Ph.D. in finance from the University of Chicago; he's also the founder and head of AQR Capital Management, a $26 billion hedge fund.
Due to the fact that the three money managers are so well respected in the hedge fund community, and theirs are such big names in financial services, their support of the bill has been highly-publicized. Since Friday's vote, their names have been included in numerous articles in the Times, Journal, Forbes, and other publications. And even as far back as six weeks ago, when they initially agreed to fund groups supporting the bill, their names were mentioned in numerous reports.
Which means that there's likely not a hedge fund manager working today who's unaware of what these three have done in support of gay rights. It also means that hedge fund industry observers as well as future hedge fund managers (students and/or those looking to make a lateral move into the industry) have taken note.
And since nothing causes change like leading by example, I believe (or, at least, sincerely hope) that in the coming years, as hedge funds and other finance firms continue to slide their doors open, albeit slightly, to openly gay and lesbian employees (and other minority groups), the vocal support of same-sex marriage by Singer, Loeb, and Asness will be looked back upon as a major milestone toward the democratization of the historically conservative, straight-white-male-dominated financial services industry.
(DealBook: The Financiers Who Helped Back N.Y. Gay Marriage Campaign)
(Related: Wall Street Hearts Gay Marriage, Is Wall Street Getting Gay-Friendlier or More Homogenous?)