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Microsoft pulls
support for Washington State gay rights bill

Microsoft pulls
support for Washington State gay rights bill

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Redmond, Wash., software giant Microsoft is under attack from angry gay employees, politicians, and activists after downgrading its supportive stance on the statewide gay rights bill to "neutral." Seattle's alternative newspaper, The Stranger, first reported that Microsoft caved into pressure from the leader of a large Evangelical church. Pastor Ken Hutcherson said he threatened a nationwide Christian boycott of Microsoft products if the company continued to support gay rights legislation in Washington. The Stranger article relied heavily on an unidentified source who participated in a meeting between Microsoft and its gay employee group. The employee said the decision not to support Rep. Ed Murray's legislation came after meeting with Hutcherson. Microsoft spokeswoman Tami Begasse insisted that the policy team decided well before the abbreviated legislative session began to support bills more closely aligned with the company's goals like computer privacy, transportation, education, and competitiveness. But the openly gay Murray told The New York Times that Microsoft is lying when it says its decision not to support his bill had nothing to do with Hutcherson's threats. Begasse admitted that the company did meet with Hutcherson in February but said the meeting was merely to explain that the two employees who testified in favor of a gay civil rights bill spoke as individuals, not as representatives of the company. She added, "Reverend Hutcherson asked us to go a step further by coming out against the bill, and we declined his request." Begasse said, "We are committed to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. Microsoft has long been a leader in the business community when it comes to gay rights." It recently added gender identity as a characteristic protected by the company's nondiscrimination policy. The civil rights bill was defeated in a 25-24 senate vote on April 20, but it's unclear whether Microsoft's actions had anything to do with it. Regardless, the gay community will be watching the company carefully for any other signs of eroding support. (Michael Bradbury, Advocate/OutQ News)

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