updated 04:15 pm EST, Thu January 19, 2012
Microsoft takes stand on Washington gay marriage
Microsoft took a rare socially-oriented political stand on Thursday with a statement endorsing Washington state legislation that would clear same-sex marriage. The Windows developer was joining a handful of other companies in the state, including Nike and RealNetworks, in saying Senate Bill 6239 and HB 2516 would be positive for the state as a whole. General Counsel Brad Smith argued that Microsoft needed a "workforce that is as diverse as our customers" and that the company would be at a disadvantage if it excluded same-sex couples that wanted to marry.
Smith insisted the company respected those who disagreed and stressed that it wasn't going to ask employees to change their minds. Microsoft did, however, want to make sure that same-sex couples didn't feel ostracized. "It's important to go beyond simply forbidding discrimination," Smith said.
Microsoft has a history of supporting such policies, dating back to 1993 when it became the first company in the Fortune 500 to give benefits to such couples. While aggressive in overall policy, however, it's slightly behind Apple in making a more direct political statement. Apple drew both criticism and praise when it formally opposed California's Proposition 8, an eventually overturned measure that banned same-sex marriage.
Last year, both Apple and Microsoft employees participated in the "It Gets Better" series of videos that showed the value of overcoming anti-LGBT bullying among teens that might otherwise consider suicide.