Although Tim Cook may have been silent about being gay until this morning's news, the Apple CEO has never been silent about the importance of workplace protections for LGBT employees.
Earlier this year, Cook sent a tweet urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal bill that would make it illegal to fire, decline to hire, or refuse to promote an employee solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For the first time in history, the legislation passed the U.S. Senate — with 10 Republicans voting in favor — but it has yet to be scheduled for a vote in the Republican-controlled House.
In his April tweet, Cook connected ENDA with another seminal piece of legislation that advanced equality in the U.S.: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 11, 2014
In 2013, Cook authored an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal calling on Congress to pass ENDA.
"Protections that promote equality and diversity should not be conditional on someone's sexual orientation," he wrote last November. "For too long, too many people have had to hide that part of their identity in the workplace."
In one of his most recent discussions on the issue, Cook spoke eloquently to lawmakers in his home state at the Alabama State Capitol on Monday, where he was being inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor.
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cook reminded the audience that "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"There is little, if anything that matters more in our country than our basic tenets of equality and human rights," Cook continued. "I have long promised myself to never be silent in my beliefs in regard to these tenets."
Lambasting Alabama as historically being "too slow" to embrace equality — noting that the state only repealed its ban on interracial marriage in 2000 — Cook got to the heart of the issue.
"And still [Alabama is] too slow on equality for the LGBT community," he critiqued. "Under the law, citizens of Alabama can still be fired based on their sexual orientation. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it. And we can create a different future."
As far as the company Cook runs, Apple has long provided equal benefits to same-sex partners of its employees and has consistently earned a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies based on how LGBT-friendly their policies are. Earlier this year, Apple released a heartwarming video for Pride, featuring Cook and numerous other out Apple employees.
Watch a segment of Cook's Monday speech at the Alabama State Capitol below: