Thursday, April 21, 2005

Microsoft reportedly pulls support for Washington Gay/Lesbian Equal rights bill

It was odd this morning for me to read about a report in the latest issue of The Stranger being posted in Shaula's blog via Big Brass Blog via Americablog. The blog community is often a smaller world than I imagine. Check out Americablog for action points on this issue.

The story is a pretty damning one of Microsoft turning it's back on supporting Washington state House Bill 1515 which would add protection for homosexuals to our state's anti-discrimintation law which already protects people based on religion, race, and sex. By taking a "neutral" stance, Microsoft is turning it's back on one minority community based on pressure from another minority community which already enjoys such protection in the law. This is a disgrace. One thing that I've respected about Microsoft is how it has treated it's gay employees in hiring and benefits. There is even an employee organization devoted to the gay community. I'm sure that the members of that group feel betrayed by their executive's stance on this as do many customers such as myself. This is an ugly ad cowardly position for Microsoft to take and it's a backwards step. Hopefully, they will reverse their decision before it's too late.

I've already gotten the feeling from family and friends who work for the company that Microsoft was becoming a stodgy old corporation a la IBM of the 1980s and moves such as this one only solidify that perspective. It is no longer the progressive, exciting work place that it once was and that will mean many troubling years ahead of it as it faces greater challenges from upstarts. If it really wants to meet those challenges, then Microsoft would do well to attract the best, brightest, and most creative employees. Any chance that it would scare away such employees by say, ignoring their equal rights under the law, is a gain for their competitors.

One caveat to the links that I posted above are comments on the Big Brass Blog. I commented on that blog, but I also want to make the point here: Bill Gates is not Microsoft and vice versa - despite all of the hype to the contrary. Sure, if Bill wants to rattle things up, he can still do so, but I think his influence is waning at the company and I think The Stranger article points that out as well. The Stranger notes that one of the company's lobbying for this bill to pass is Corbis. Corbis' CEO, Steve Davis, even called representatives at Microsoft to lobby them not to change their support. As a former employee of Corbis (full disclosure), I'd like to point out that it is wholly owned by Bill Gates. In other words, the company Gates does own is supporting this bill and the one that he is a figure head of - granted, with lots of interest in, but he doesn't own it - is changing it's stance on this bill. Big Brass Blog is misguided in it's criticism of Gates as associated with Microsoft on this issue. I am not a Gates cheerleader and I have significant complaints as to how he has managed Corbis, but it is unclear as to how much he can steer Microsoft back to a morally correct course on this particular issue

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