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Microsoft Government Politics

Microsoft Abandons Gay Rights Bill 2304

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the a-little-off-the-beaten-track dept.
andrewagill writes "Microsoft has withdrawn support from a bill that would "protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, banking, insurance, and other matters by adding sexual orientation to a state law which already bars discrimination" of the other usual suspects. Odd, given their previous accolades from the GLBT community, and their prior public support for the bill."
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Microsoft Abandons Gay Rights Bill

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:42PM (#12305350)
    From the article in The Stranger:



    The Stranger has learned that last month the $37-billion Redmond-based software behemoth quietly withdrew its support for House bill 1515, the anti-gay-discrimination bill currently under consideration by the Washington State legislature, after being pressured by the Evangelical Christian pastor of a suburban megachurch.



    You mean it's that easy? I got an idea...Let's all march on Redmond and threaten to boycott Microsoft...unless they fix all of these unnecessary security holes in their products. :P

    Seriously, though, this is a MAJOR issue...Microsoft withdraws its support on a subject it's been championing for years, becuse of threats from one rabidly evangelistic, gay-hating preacher??? Just what exactly does Ken Hutcherson have on Bill anyway? For the life of me, I don't understand why Bill didn't just tell him to fuck off. He should have ordered that Ken be dragged out back and shot (fun fact: it's legal for him to do that in Redmond). But no...he just caves, despite the fact that Microsoft owns the consumer market, and Ken's followers could no longer 'boycott' the use of Microsoft's products than they could 'boycott' the use of oxygen.

    I almost feel sorry for Microsoft. Almost.

    It's going to be interesting to see how Microsoft wriggles out of this one...although I would have much rather they called Ken's bluff...the 'boycott' would have been even more interesting to watch.
    • by swilde23 (874551) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:45PM (#12305403) Journal
      despite the fact that Microsoft owns the consumer market

      Would that be the same consumer market that passed anti-gay marriage laws in 11 different states last November?

      • by learn fast (824724) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:12PM (#12305836)
        Thank god. I for one can't go anywhere without certainly gay people peering at me in the most odd way.

        I've installed locks on all my doors and windows so those goddamned gays can't sneak in and get up to no good. One look at those pillows, your curtains and you know you've been hit by the gays.

        I've tried to do my part in my community by trying to keep tabs on them. I've taken some surveillance at the local YMCA. I've swept the mall and tried on some red swimware. Yet gay people keep decidedly peering at me in the most peculiar way.

        We must stop the gay conspiracy and the gay media conspiracy, with their forced-redecoration squads running amok, frightening children and installing remarkably tasteful yet a little too frilly curtain vestments on every doorway and awning in this whole country. They want to take away our rights, to have our own curtains. The gay media conspiracy keeps a lid on it, however.

        I urge you to ban gay marriage/civil unions in your state or your curtains may be next!
      • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:13PM (#12305851) Homepage
        The point is that Microsoft's market share is secure enough that they can do things that their customers wouldn't necessarily approve of; the Rev. and Mrs. Goodfaith are still going to buy a PC with MS Windows and MS Office, regardless.

        I can't believe MS is really afraid of a religious-right boycott, especially when they're still the darlings of the other side of the Republican party (the economic right).

        • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot@monkelectri c . c om> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:25PM (#12306031)
          Me either ... MS isnt afraid of the friggin EU, let alone a single preacher.

          Someone very big must have threatened them, or, more likely, we simply don't know the story here. I think a boycott would have been GREAT for MS. Firt of all: we all know that conservative christians are the least likely to be MS customers -- second of all: MS would get to look like a good guy for once by doing the right thing -- and thats great publicity.

        • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @05:02PM (#12306666) Journal

          The point is that Microsoft's market share is

          Surely not - shouldn't the real point be why does a human rights bill need the financial backing of a big company to get passed?

          That's the issue as far as I'm concerned. Has the US ideals of democracy sunk so low that this is just a given now and not worthy of comment?
          • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @06:53PM (#12308076) Homepage
            Check out the Bill of Rights. Now check out the people involved in its creation. Not a poor man in the bunch, by the standards of the times.

            Learn this in your bones before you try to make any changes in the world: GOVERNMENT IS BY THE WEALTHY AND POWERFUL, FOR THE WEALTHY AND POWERFUL. (That's descriptive, not prescriptive, by the way.)

            It's kinda pointless trying to change a system that you don't understand; your actions my even be counter-productive. Once you've understood the purpose of the system, you can begin to see that it is rational and internally consistent. THEN you can begin to formulate your plans to change it.
      • *Democracy* at work (Score:5, Informative)

        by gnuman99 (746007) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @05:00PM (#12306642)
        Would that be the same consumer market that passed anti-gay marriage laws in 11 different states last November?

        Hey, that's what you get by having majorities imposing laws on minorities. Never worked and never will.

        In Canada there is the Charter of Rights And Freedoms [justice.gc.ca]. Especially look at #15.

        15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

        (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

        In Canada, the Supreme Court rules that the current marriage act discriminates against gay/lesbians on this basis (ie. don't have the same rights under the law). http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2004/12/09 /scoc-gaymarriage041209.html [www.cbc.ca]

        Gay marriage is already law in many provinces now, but it is be voted federally soon.

        • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @07:10PM (#12308276)
          Gay marriage is already law in many provinces now, but it is be voted federally soon.

          And just look at what's happened to Canada! Total chaos! Two dollar coins, people speaking in French, and decriminalized marijuana! I hear there are even places where polar bears roam the streets at will- is THAT the kind of cesspool of degeneracy we want America to become? Tastefully decorated, perhaps, but at the cost of being overrun by polar bears and stoned French separatists?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:49PM (#12305468)
      He has noting on him.

      The bill was basically stalled as many other unrelated things got tacked onto it. The spirit of the bill was so diluted it was useless.

      MS will support a new bill, which adheres to the original with none of the extra fluff.
    • by lilmouse (310335) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:07PM (#12305749)
      100 posts in, and you still haven't given the obvious answer to this!

      What does he have on Bill? Well, when the head of MS starts desperately following bizarre orders from Evangelicals, you realize he's gotta be looking for allies. My guess is, his contract is expiring soon, and he's looking for a loophole.

      Now, we know Satan's contracts are even tighter than MS's, so Bill's trying to get some extra-judicial help. That's all.

      --LWM
  • Bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkHelmet (120004) * <[mark] [at] [seventhcycle.net]> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:42PM (#12305359) Homepage
    At the April 4 meeting, Smith told members of GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, that the company had switched its official stance to "neutral" on the bill, and took personal responsibility for the decision.

    Followed by

    An Apple a day keeps the bigot away?

    As much as I am for civil rights and gay marriage, this is inflammatory. Just because Microsoft changed their stance from pro to neutral (not against), this makes them bigoted? I don't buy that. I don't buy that at all.

    This is the same kind of black and white reasoning that George W. Bush uses. "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists." Just because someone wants to back away from the battle, doesn't mean all of a sudden that they're on the side of the religious right.

    I know it's in-fashion to bash Microsoft on this site, but the fellow who wrote this article takes any sort of GBLA equality achievements with a grain of salt. Kind of like giving a donation to a charity the first time around, and being called stingy for not doing so every time.

    Sure, it's disappointing that they backed off. Sure, I hope they change their mind, and I hope plenty of people call them. But to call them bigoted for turning neutral (and not against) is simply going too far.

    • Re:Bad. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rpdillon (715137) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:49PM (#12305472) Homepage
      Right on.

      I think the answer to most discrimination issues *is* to be totally neutral (not to discrimination, but to whatever basis people are using to dicriminate). Black? White? Latino? Gay? Lesbian? Bi? I don't care...how well can you program? What experience do you have unit testing? Are you familiar with functional programming methods?

      I'm usually against MS, but on this, I agree...they shouldn't have a position on issues like this; these issues are personal and irrelevant to the business. Making it out like they're suddenly a "bad guy" because of THIS, of all things, is kind of absurd.
  • Uh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjrstory (839289) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:42PM (#12305364) Homepage
    Anyone else read this as Microsoft Abandons Gay Bill?
  • But (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:43PM (#12305366)
    Windows is still gay.
  • by Harodotus (680139) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:44PM (#12305387) Homepage

    That Microsoft did this actually this was fairly predictable, even though I too am a strong advocate of gay rights.

    Regardless of TFA says, what I think happened is that there is a some major customer of Microsoft software is strongly anti-gay rights (like the Bush run federal government or a large corporation or a major customer who allies itself with the religious right extremists mentioned in TFA) told Microsoft that they wouldn't purchase X 10s of thousands of copies of Office if Microsoft undermined their anti-gay political policies / laws.

    Microsoft wants to be known as socially responsible, but faced with a reduction of revenue, their greed took precedent and they became non-political on this issue. Of course they can't publicly admit this backroom concession.

    Surely no one here would be surprised that Microsoft went for the money before social responsibility. Heck most companies would do the same thing if enough money was at stake.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:44PM (#12305389)
    ...Mac OS X as a threat (rightly, in my opinion), so they are now attacking the problem at the source.
  • by metoc (224422) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:45PM (#12305401)
    Odds are dropping support for this bill was necessary to get support for a bill they really want passed (anti-open source, take over the world, etc.).
  • Wrong angle (Score:5, Funny)

    by chill (34294) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:46PM (#12305410) Journal
    What bothers me is that one corporate entity seemingly has so much influence over the legislative process. Specifically, a law that is totally unrelated to their industry.

    I understand the RIAA/MPAA and Copyright legislation, but Microsoft and Gay Rights? WTF?

    Now, instead of "Write Your Congressman!" are we supposed to call MS Tech Support?

    -Charles
    • Re:Wrong angle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TummyX (84871) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:01PM (#12305646)

      Specifically, a law that is totally unrelated to their industry


      Considering the law in no small part had to do with discrimination in employment situations, I would imagine it is totally related to companies that...you know.....employ people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:46PM (#12305412)
    People can be right assholes about this. Having been told to my face by my manager "look, we'd really love to keep you on but I'm afraid there's no legal protection to you if we fire you over your homosexuality, so we're forced to let you go. Please don't hesitate to contact me if there's ANYTHING we can do for you."

    And you thought Microsoft were the kings of doublespeak & twisted convoluted logic.

    Unfortunately, legal protections can only go so far. If someone wants to fire an employee because they don't like the employee's partner, then they'll find a reason quickly enough.
  • Oh man (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:46PM (#12305413) Homepage
    Microsoft abandons gays? That's a great agline. Just what the doctor ordered, in case there weren't enough things to flame them about.

    Now I'll listen to the zealots ticking off the reasons "M$ is teh suxx0rz" and including "they hate fagz" as well, like most of they care.

    I have to wonder why this is on the Slashdot front page, and why it's not followed by a list of companies like IBM, Novell, Sun and Red Hat and what their attitude is towards gays and lesbians.

    But wait, actually I don't.

  • Full Article here (Score:5, Informative)

    by jasonla (211640) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:46PM (#12305417)
    The full article can be found here:
    http://www.thestranger.com/2005-04-21/feature.html [thestranger.com]
  • Huh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JeffSh (71237) <jeffslashdot@ m 0 m 0.org> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:47PM (#12305428)
    I'm not sure I understand how a corporations support, or lack there of, for social political issues is relevant..

    I suppose this is analogous to Henry Ford's philosophy for why he paid his workers well, in some respects, but Henry Ford didn't throw his weight behind legislation and bills for workers, did he?

    i think seperation of corporation from government is more important than the seperation of church and state in some respects. Who cares what bills or legislation they do or don't support. I think a company's best influence on society can be made through their own internal HR and resource practices..

    i don't know, seems a bit silly to me.
    • Re:Huh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:53PM (#12305518)
      I'm not sure I understand how a corporations support, or lack there of, for social political issues is relevant..

      Allow me to explain. We measure its relevance using a unit known to some as the US Dollar, to others as the "greenback". Legislation in this country needs to be lobbied for. Politicians don't know shit, and don't have much of an incentive to learn about shit unless there is somebody breathing down their neck, using the carrot-and-stick approach to get them to pay attention to an issue. The people who do this, lobbyists, have to be paid by somebody. Since corporations have a lot of money and a common goal within the organization can be easily set, it's pretty straightforward to see how they might hire lobbyists and give them the tools (payola money) to work their trade.

      Now you may think in an ideal democracy this isn't how things would work, but that's not the world we live in. Professional, trade, and random interest groups can certainly wield the same power by swinging some dollars around, and representing some bloc of citizens. But without some sort of organized, funded umbrella organization, it is difficult to get your opinion heard by politicians.

      So, perhaps it's a little more clear now why Microsoft throwing their weight behind this cause might be relevant?
  • okay, i'll bite... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by radarsat1 (786772) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:47PM (#12305433) Homepage
    okay.... i'll ask....

    what the hell does a software company have to do with promoting gay rights? i don't remember any questions to that effect the last time i installed windows...

    *hands up in the air..*

    *rolls eyes..*

    *walks away...*
  • Amazing. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RatBastard (949) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:50PM (#12305479) Homepage
    The truley amazing thing about this is that MS is scared of someone. Just think about that for a second. The biggest software company in the world, with a monopoly on the desktop and office suite markets scared of someone. Anyone.

    It makes one wonder if there is something rotten in Redmond.
  • by TechnoLust (528463) * <kai...technolust@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:51PM (#12305498) Homepage Journal
    Some online rag I've never heard of posts a story and doesn't cite specific sources, some blogger links to said online rag, /. links to blog and posts Microsoft hates gays!

    Can anyone actually confirm that MS pulled support of this?

    • by xnderxnder (626189) <dan@@@hindgrindr...com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:46PM (#12306390)
      The "online rag" looks like a local weekly.. and seems to I dunno, quote sources. Is it less worthy 'cause you didn't see it in the New York Times?

      Some sources from the article:

      Ed Murray, a gay Democrat representing Capitol Hill and the prime sponsor of the bill, confirmed that Smith also told him about the pressure from Hutcherson during an awkward and at times heated March 29 conference call in which they discussed the company's decision to end its active support for the bill.

      [Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary] told members of GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, that the company had switched its official stance to "neutral" on the bill, and took personal responsibility for the decision.


      I'd quote more, but, y'know, RTFA.
  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @03:57PM (#12305581) Homepage Journal
    Since there's currently no litmus test for what constitutes a committed gay relationship (ie marriage), it seems like a bureaucratic nightmare to distinguish between two same-gender friends and a gay couple. For example, there are a lot of single-family residences that don't allow unrelated inhabitants. How does the apartment manager get to decide whether to allow two guys that show up wanting to rent a unit?

    Yeah, I know that's not the best example in the world, but I meant that to demonstrate the millions of ways this could turn into a lawyer-friendly fiasco in record time. If you extend insurance benefits to gay partners (despite their current lack of legal status), do you have to extend it to unmarried straight partners as well? Do gay couples have to file their taxes together, or can they keep the huge tax benefits of filing singly, and if the latter, isn't that discrimination against unmarried straight couples? Do religious groups have to hire gay people even if they are strongly against it? Accept gay volunteers to non-paid positions?

    Honestly, either go with gay marriage (or civil unions or some other process of establishing a legal basis in a relationship) or forget these stupid halfway laws that can't possibly be fairly enforced.

  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummel@@@johnhummel...net> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:07PM (#12305760) Homepage
    True story:

    I was talking with my brother in law, who works in a car shop. Somehow the topic of VW came up, and he made an interesting comment:

    Him: Man, I can always tell a gay guy when he walks in the door. If He's using an Apple computer while he's waiting, and is driving a VW Beetle or Golf - especially the Beetles! - or has one of those Apple Computer logos on their car - they are a flaming homo. Not that there's anything wrong with it.


    Me (while looking up something on my Powerbook): Hm. Interesting. By the way, that's my Beetle parked outside. I'd better call my wife and tell her my secret's out.


    We had a bit of a laugh over that - finding that one big honking exception to a stereotype can usually blow someone's bubble pretty quick.

    Makes you wonder if MS doesn't realize that there's an untap market in the Gay and Lesbian community by continuing to show their support.

    I guess what strikes me odd about the whole story is that for 12 years, MS has supported the Gay and Lesbian community, even winning awards for their support. They gave their support to a bill that basically says "Just like you can't discriminate against people for their gender, religion, ethnic background, or favorite M&M, you can't discriminate if they are a guy who likes to get it on with another guy, or a girl who thinks other girls are 'teh sexy'".

    Then, one guy pops up, says "You know, God hates fags, and if you support this bill then we're going to tell the other Christian groups not to buy Microsoft."

    As a Christian myself (yeah, not a terribly deeply practicing one - you won't see me making a birthday cake to Jesus and waiting for Him to blow out the candles on Christmas), I find the actions of Mr. Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond to be incredibly offensive, bigoted, and against everything that Christ stood for. (You know, the whole thing of "Judge not unrighteously lest ye be judged", or "I am not come to treat the well, but the sick", or "Get the hell out of my face, you damned dirty ape" - no, wait, wrong religious figure - my bad).

    MS can't have it both ways. Either they support the Gay and Lesbian community, and show that there are some things more important than money - and to be honest, how many ministers are going to rise up and start buying Apple's just because MS states publicly they don't give a damn if two guys are getting hot and heavy in the bedroom? 1% of all ministers? 10%?

    The loss of good faith, and a reputation of aligning themselves with people of bigoted views will probably do far more damage in the long run than "holding the course" and continuing their support of House Bill 1515.

    Of course, that's just my opinion, and I could be wrong. If nothing else, if MS doesn't stand up and do the right thing, then I guess I'll be looking for that copy of iWork instead of MS Office for my next office suite upgrade.
  • Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pyth (87680) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @04:52PM (#12306519)
    I thought we were supposed to be against companies lobbying the government to have their way? Then this is good!
  • Gah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CTachyon (412849) <chronos AT chronos-tachyon DOT net> on Thursday April 21, 2005 @05:11PM (#12306790) Homepage

    One of the perks of being a programmer is that, normally, coding is a refuge from thinking about this kind of crap. GCC doesn't give a fliegende kinderscheisse [ology.org] that I'm gay.

    For a while I couldn't read [kansas.com] the [kansas.com] newspaper [kansas.com] without getting a knot in my stomach, and just looking at the Opinion section can give me a headache these days without even reading it. Between what my own state is up to and the creepy backlash building up at the national level, I've decided that sticking it out in the U.S. just isn't worth it and I'm currently saving up to move to Vancouver.

    Now, though, the insanity is even making its way onto the Slashdot front page. Tech companies being gay-friendly has always just been a given in the back of my mind. The fact that the biggest of them all is backing off due to outside pressure has me worried even more. I can't shake the feeling that there's something big and scary happening here in the U.S. right now, and the backlash against gay rights is only the tip of it.

  • Corporate power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenrod (188428) on Thursday April 21, 2005 @05:46PM (#12307286)
    Just yesterday I was reading on Slashdot [slashdot.org] about how evil corporations were, about how they should not be allowed involvement in government or political campaigns.

    But today many of the same people (I'm sure) are bitching about Microsoft's decision to stay out of this gay rights legislative battle.

    Lesson learned: Corporate power is OK as long as they're fighting on my side.

    Hypocrites.

  • Wow.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I_redwolf (51890) * on Thursday April 21, 2005 @11:16PM (#12309958) Homepage Journal
    You know.. it's clear to me that America truly isn't a place of freedom anymore. It's more free than other places but this country is looking more oligarchy everyday. Wonder how long it can last until some fresh blood needs to be spilled.

    I'm Christian, i'm male, i'm straight, i'm black, i'm American. I don't give a shit if two males or two females want to marry. Not my business and if god has a problem with it. Let god do the judging, i'm too busy trying to survive.

    What really gets me is that regardless of religion. If you can't follow the simple commandments and rationalize them on the basis of your own ideology. How fucking faithful and true to your religion are you? "Love thy neighbhor? Yeah.. only if they aren't gay."

    You fucking hypocrites, the same book you live by talks about people like you. The same book talks about praising false idols (ie: the pope). I mean, even before the new ones burial plot could sink people are already over their mourning and cheering a new pope and for what?! Religious leadership? You need a leader to talk to your god, to steer you to holiness?

    You "religious" people disgust me. Stop walking around in the dark or you'll be left in the dark. How about you all take a minute and re-read the bible? Any bible, any religion. You don't have to get far to see the message.

    Treat people the way you want to be treated, love thy neighbor.. You don't need a church, wherever two or more gather. I'll be there.

    I mean jesus christ.. seriously.. JESUS CHRIST.. help these people.

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