Friday, April 22, 2005

Microsoft Goes Soft

From the New York Times:

The Microsoft Corporation, at the forefront of corporate gay rights for decades, is coming under fire from gay rights groups, politicians and its own employees for withdrawing its support for a state bill that would have barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Many of the critics accused the company of bowing to pressure from a prominent evangelical church in Redmond, Wash., located a few blocks from Microsoft’s sprawling headquarters.

The bill, or similar versions of it, has been introduced repeatedly over three decades; it failed by one vote Thursday in the State Senate. Gay rights advocates denounced Microsoft, which had supported the bill for the last two years, for abandoning their cause. Blogs and online chat rooms were buzzing on Thursday with accusations that the company, which has offered benefits to same-sex partners for years, had given in to the Christian right.

“I think people should feel betrayed,” said Tina Podlodowski, a former Microsoft senior manager and former Seattle city councilwoman who now runs an advocacy group for AIDS patients. “To me, Microsoft has been one of the big supporters of gay and lesbian civil rights issues, and they did it when it wasn’t an issue of political expediency, when it was the right thing to do.”

Microsoft officials denied any connection between their decision not to endorse the bill and the church’s opposition, although they acknowledged meeting twice with the church minister, Ken Hutcherson.

Dr. Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, who has organized several rallies opposing same-sex marriage here and in Washington, D.C., said he threatened in those meetings to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products.

After that, “they backed off,” the pastor said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about,” he said.

I’ve been looking for a reason to unload my MSFT stock. I seem to have found one.