Apr 24, 2005

Microsoft gets screwed in the nasty world of sexual politics

A small sh*tstorm is brewing up in Redmond. Apparently, Microsoft has decided to NOT support a bill in the Washington legislature that would protect homosexuals from employment, housing, banking and insurance discrimination. They did support such a thing last year. Now they're officially "neutral".

Robert Scoble, the uberblogger and MSoft employee want nuts over this one...publically...via this post on his blog.

The issue is whether MSoft is reacting to boycott threats from a Christian Pastor and what role a corporation should play in social politics. Read about it in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Stranger.

What I find most interesting in all this is the response from Scoble's boss, who states that "Social change should be initiated, and decided, outside the scope of corporations."

The train has left the station on that one, my friends, and to think otherwise is, well, an outstanding feat of self-delusion. Corporations dictate social change, or the lack thereof, all the time by influencing energy, environmental and financial policy to name just a few areas. Claiming otherwise is just a convenient screen to hide behind.

The question here isn't if MSoft supports social change--they already do, by providing domestic partner benefits since the early 1990s. The question is if they're willing to take the next step and risk alienating people who have a problem with homosexuality.

This is an issue only because "gay rights" (which I'll define here at a protection from discrimination) are still a bugaboo for many religious organizations, due to their selective desire to have government play a role in our private lives. And a pigheaded insistence that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice".

Even more vexing about MSoft's stance is the both Gates and Balmer believe in equal rights for same-sex couples. That's their "personal" view, one which is instilled in MSoft HR policy. So, why doesn't this translate over to the public realm? Maybe it's because certain MSoft employees have complained. Maybe it's a matter of money. Maybe they just don't want to take this one on right now. Unfortunately, they don't have a choice, because it's been forced upon them by the BlogoLand.

Once you enter the policital realm, which they have with prior support of a non-discrimination bill, you're in the mix. To take leave of certain issues sends a specific message. MSoft should stick with their beliefs. If certain employees have problems with it, they should talk it out and do what they can.

But the die is cast here: You're the Big Boys, Steve and Bill. You've taken a stand. Now it's time to defend it.

[Here's my disclaimer for being totally ignorant of MSoft's inside workings, etc.]

Some other great links on this story, if you're interested. Thanks to Johnnie Moore for putting me on the trail.

Balmer's response memo.
Adam Barr, a fellow Softie adds his views.
Another interesting take on the story.
Johnnie Moore and others have put up a what they call a "snapcast" via Skype. (That's damn cool.)
Tony Goodson adds some additional post-cast thoughts.

1 comment:

EVK4 said...

According to Yahoo they may be rethinking their stance. Of course, I only read the headline so I'm not 100% sure what the article says.