Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain towards the end of January 2018 for about a month
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 22 April 2005

Microsoft and gay rights

Washington, Microsoft's home state, has been debating a gay rights bill which would grant protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Microsoft is generally recognised as having a pretty enlightened attitude toward matters affecting gays and had, until recently, supported the passing of this Washington State bill, but has recently amended its stance, according to the company, to 'neutral'.

The company states that this change in policy is because, in the words of this article in The Seattle Times, "it was narrowing its lobbying focus to issues such as education, transportation, computer privacy and business competitiveness".

Others take a less charitable view of the change and point to pressure exerted upon the software giant by Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Redmond's 3,500-member Antioch Bible Church (Redmond is where Microsoft is headquartered), who has it seems advised the company that he would organise a "national boycott of the company's products if it did not withdraw its support of the bill" (quote from the same article linked to above).

Of course I have no way of knowing what is the truth. Bill, at billandkent (also in my blogroll at right) has given his thoughts on the matter here, and I reproduce these below:

"So today I’m sitting at my desk at work. My phone rings. I answer it. It’s a representative from Microsoft wanting to sell me a new 'add on' product to a Microsoft package my company already owns. I’m the IT Manager for the company I work for.

"I reply, 'Why?' He starts to tell me about the product and what it will do... I interrupt with, 'No. I want to know why!' He said, 'I don’t understand.' I said, 'Washington State has been trying to pass a gay rights bill for the last three decades. Yesterday, it lost by one vote. This after Microsoft withdrew it’s support for the bill. So, my question to you is, why. Why did Microsoft pull it’s support for the gay civil rights bill in Washington State and why should I, as a gay man, give you, a representative of Microsoft, time of day?'

"He said, 'Well, I don’t know what to say.' I said, 'When you figure it out, you can call me back.' I hung up the phone.

"Two hours later I get another phone call from Microsoft. They are having a web seminar that they felt I would be interested in participating in. I said, 'Why?' You get the idea.

"It’s a small world. I don’t live in Washington State. This bill would have added job protections for gay workers, and I do know something about that. I know what it feels like to be fired for being gay. At the time it happened, I felt degraded, useless, humiliated, and powerless.

"Today, I got my power back!

"Microsoft can go to hell."

Can the good pastor really organise a boycott? Who knows, but the religious-right in the US does seem to have a great deal of influence, so perhaps it isn't so far-fetched as some might perhaps like to believe. Like many, many others I use Microsoft software on my PC. I'll watch with interest as this story develops.

UPDATE: (Saturday 28MAY05 11.13 BST) See my later posting here, which reveals that Microsoft seems to have bowed to pressure from disgruntled employees dismayed at its just-announced 'neutral' stance on LGBT issues by severing ties with an anti-gay advisor (who, one imagines, got them into this mess in the first place).

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