Microsoft of course denies all, but the facts speak pretty loudly. They first came to light in the Seattle weekly The Stranger. It produced an article about how after meeting with a threatening minister, the computer coward withdrew his company's decades-long support for anti-discrimination just before a gay-rights bill came before the legislature. The bill lost by a single vote. Read the original report by Sandeep Kaushik here. Read the New York Times take on it here.
House Bill 1515 would have forbidden discrimination by sexual orientation in employment, housing, banking and insurance. Read the text here. Microsoft, with an allegedly liberal management and a good dose of homosexual employees and contractors had long supported such legislation.
Company officials met twice with Antioch Bible Church Senior Minister Ken Hutcherson, who seems to be rabidly anti-gay. Word from inside Microsoft and boasting from Hutcherson's people is that Gates' people folded upon threats of a nationwide boycott of its software.
Former Seahawks linebacker Hutcherson heads a church with 3,500 members. He previously organized Mayday for Marriage that rallied 140,000 anti-same-sex folk in the other Washington (D.C.) last spring. He was one of the most outspoken of black leaders who object to any comparison of gay rights and African-American ones.
The article in The Stranger reported that he not only wanted Microsoft to withdraw support for the legislation, he also wanted two gay Microsoft employees who testified in favor of the bill to be canned. Apparently he got the former but not the latter.
The article cites state State Rep. Ed Murray as saying that "...the company was faced with a 'profound' moral test, which it failed. The backpedaling 'sends an incredible message of weakness and shows a lack of moral backbone. I mean, what is this? Is this the 1930s, and are they Krupps?'"
In Kaushik's judgment:
After meeting with Hutcherson, Microsoft had to make a choice: Maintain its long-standing, progressive support for civil rights or side with reactionary forces advocating discrimination. The company chose the latter. The gay Microsoft employee who spoke to The Stranger concluded, "Microsoft needs to feel the pain of a bad decision here."What good is it to be a corporate bully if you cave to a petty tyrant and bigot? Ask Bill.
There is much shame tonight in Seattle, both for the bully preacher and the bullied capitalist.