April 21, 2005

Microsoft: Wuzzy Sellout or Crass Payback?

AmericaBlog is raising the alarm about Microsoft's latest public policy change in response to a threat from a religious conservative. After years of strongly supporting gay rights, the company decided to switch it's position on a bill promoting equality of rights for gays from Support to Neutral (in other words, making sure to let the bill die).

Microsoft's excuse? Well, how about "Nobody will notice...."?

Here's an excerpt of the article from the Stranger as posted by AmericaBlog:

In a move that angered many of the company's gay employees, the Microsoft Corporation, publicly perceived as the vanguard institution of the new economy, has taken a major political stand in favor of age-old discrimination.

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.

The pastor, Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, met with a senior Microsoft executive in February and threatened to organize a national boycott of the company's products if it did not change its stance on the legislation, according to gay rights activists and a Microsoft employee who attended a subsequent April 4 meeting where Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, told a group of gay staffers about Hutcherson's threat....

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. He characterized the shift as part of a broader general review of company policy designed to more precisely formulate criteria for determining when Microsoft should involve itself in "social issues," but also disclosed the pressure that had been brought to bear on him by Hutcherson....

John asks why the company would do this now after the threat of one conservative preacher. Could it be that this is the payback that the Bush administration demanded for their dropping the antitrust suit started under Clinton? Microsoft is one corporation that actively worked for Bush's election and the top executives are certainly beneficiaries of the Bush tax cut policies, yet this doesn't explain this new position. Yet, under the Bush regime, we have seen that the blatant corruption of politics by the Republican machine means that those who get something from the administration will find that the price is something more than what they originally expected. Much like a deal with the devil, Microsoft could be finding that getting in bed with the Bush mafia has made them vulnerable to threats that limits their autonomy. In this way, the onetime king on the hill becomes a tool in the arsenal of the corrupt administration and the theocrats even if it betrays their previously held values.

Go read the full post and add your support to AmericaBlog's call to arms.

Posted by Mary at April 21, 2005 09:14 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

Either they've forgotten what state they're headquartered in, or some serious Republican firepower was brought to bear against them. It's possible someone made them an offer they couldn't refuse, and frankly, no company or person in this country is probably entirely outside the reach of these creeps running the government right now.

Posted by: natasha at April 21, 2005 09:52 PM

I just saw a re-run of the old 'Dick Tracy' cartoons with their array of crafty villains - Pruneface, Itchy, Mumbles, etc.

Nothing describes the Bush Administration better than Tracy's Rogue's Gallery.

Posted by: David Aquarius at April 22, 2005 08:34 AM

Look forward to the day when we can start up those Anti-Trust lawsuits again!

Posted by: uptown at April 22, 2005 05:02 PM

I think this is an in-state job.

Microsoft wants to expand on a parcel that might be adjacent to the church of the alleged pastor that made his treat to the company.

I also have heard that there were concerns about whether Microsoft's expansion plans would pass muster with respect to the state CAO.

Either way, making local Repug state legislaors happy in order to get a smooth path for those expansion plans may be the final straw.

Already one of those state legislators, who has continuously cired crocodile tears over his desire to prove his tolerance as he helped kill the bill, is becoming Target #1. I suspect the other state Senator will become Target #2 Real Soon Now.

And I think Microsoft has just lost more than a bit of goodwill.

Posted by: Palamedes at April 22, 2005 08:58 PM

Just one clarification. There's a bit of disinformation going around. Microsoft was neutral before this Hutcherson guy got involved. It was just that he put Microsoft on the spot to publicize it. However, they did support it in previous years. Either way, the company had their reasons for abandoning what used to be a core value, but it will not be without risk to the bottom line in an industry that has a progressive streak to it.

Posted by: thehim at April 22, 2005 10:22 PM