06 May 2005

Microsoft - Reversal of Reversal

Today, Microsoft softened what they claim the thinking was behind pulling their support for gay / lesbian anti-discrimination legislation and stated clearly they will move forward ready to offer full support of such legislation in the future and with their commitment to diversity in the workplace strengthened.

Steve Ballmer sent an E-mail to U.S. Microsoft employees regarding public policy engagement. Here are excerpts and a link to the full e-mail.

REDMOND, Wash. -- May 6, 2005 -- In response to widespread public interest in the company's position on anti-discrimination legislation, Microsoft Corp. today released the following text of an e-mail sent today from Steve Ballmer, CEO, to all Microsoft employees in the United States:

After looking at the question from all sides, I've concluded that diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda. Since our beginning nearly 30 years ago, Microsoft has had a strong business interest in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest and most diverse workforce possible. I'm proud of Microsoft's commitment to non-discrimination in our internal policies and benefits, but our policies can't cover the range of housing, education, financial and similar services that our people and their partners and families need. Therefore, it's appropriate for the company to support legislation that will promote and protect diversity in the workplace.

Accordingly, Microsoft will continue to join other leading companies in supporting federal legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation -- adding sexual orientation to the existing law that already covers race, sex, national origin, religion, age and disability. Given the importance of diversity to our business, it is appropriate for the company to endorse legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on all of these grounds. Obviously, the Washington State legislative session has concluded for this year, but if legislation similar to HB 1515 is introduced in future sessions, we will support it.

Link To Full E-Mail

As a part of the gay/lesbian community and part of a plural society nearing the cusp of acceptance and tolerance, I felt like a wounded friend of Microsoft. When I first heard this news today I was both elated and bitter again. I was tempted to say "too little, too late". The skeptic in me wondered about possible agendas behind this crazy event. The indignant part of me wanted an apology of sorts--an admission that a terrible error in judgment was made. Microsoft made their statement as softly as they could, putting the entire event in its best possible light. Of course they did, that is understandable.

Some Questionable Statements And Facts:

First, Pastor Ken Hutcherson: I, frankly cannot believe the ego run amuck in this man. I have never believed he held some power over Microsoft. He had a meeting and is brazenly claiming power and control over the corporate giant's political agenda. Nonsense. I don't wage battles by silly name calling or rolling around in the mud, but really, this man has difficulty forming complete sentences. Just how much power does he think he has? Let's look at some of his outrageous comments:

"When they stepped out and tried to make their policy my policy and other companies' policy and the state's policy, they stepped into a den of snakes and I was the main cobra," Hutcherson said.

(Interesting to say the least that this man of god refers to himself as a snake)

Hutcherson expressed disappointment with Ballmer's statement "Steve Ballmer, I believe, is a liar", and said in no uncertain terms that Microsoft was not being forthright about the substance of the conversations company executives had with him, and about the timing of the company's decision. "The company lied, and 'the Black Man' is not going to lie down and say 'okay,'" he said, referencing his nickname around the church office. He added, "Evidently they don't know that I won't keep my mouth shut about unrighteousness."

(He is making this debate about HIM?...About "the Black Man"? I am forced to believe he is nothing more than a self serving narcissist. Oh...and a self proclaimed snake).

From Bill Gates: "Well, we didn't expect that kind of visibility for it," Gates told The Seattle Times. "After all, Microsoft's position on a political bill -- has that ever caused something to pass or not pass? Is it good, is it bad? I don't know."

(That statement is far too naive to be completely believable. Microsoft has more control than many countries. It is a corporate behemoth with an impact on the global market. Yet Mr Gates has difficulty comprehending that his company could have influence over state or federal legislation? A bit disingenuous.)

And then there is Ralph Reed: Microsoft Corp. is paying social conservative Ralph Reed (well-connected Republican with close ties to the White House) $20,000 a month as a consultant. A commitment to diversity in both process and philosophy dictates the acceptance of all voices. I cannot hold Microsoft to a commitment of diversity and then call out for them to eliminate any conservative voices that have their ear. I will just say that if they plan to be dedicated to the cause of civil rights for gays and lesbians, they might be taken a bit more seriously if they avoid the use of radical conservative hired guns.

I will reiterate that today's events were bitter sweet for me, but ultimately I feel Microsoft found itself on the wrong path and turned around. I am proud and pleased and will focus on the positive impact of their decision.

We will serve the cause of civil rights best by encouraging strong advocates to stay the course and by opening our arms once again.

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