The upcoming effort to pass employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers employed by the state of Alabama is about to get a powerful name-check honoring the state's most prominent homegrown technology executive.
Democratic representative Patricia Todd, the state's only out lawmaker, plans to introduce a bill in March that would protect LGBT state employees, including teachers, from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, reports Reuters. And she plans to name the bill after Tim Cook, an Alabama native and the current CEO of Apple, who made headlines around the world when he publicly came out as gay in October.
Although Todd told the news agency she initially suggested naming the bill after Cook in jest, she was soon contacted by an Apple official, who was concerned that Cook's name would be attached to a "politically sensitive measure," according to Reuters. Todd reportedly agreed to keep Cook's name off the bill, which she plans to introduce in March. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled legislature and with Republican Robert J. Bentley serving another term as governor.
But after BuzzFeed broke the story about an Apple representative hoping to distance Cook from the legislation, the tech company's general counsel called Todd and told her that Cook "would be delighted to have the bill named after him," Reuters reports.
"Tim was honored to hear that State Rep. Todd wanted to name an antidiscrimination bill after him, and we're sorry if there was any miscommunication about it," Apple said in a statement to Reuters. "We have a long history of support for LGBT rights and we hope every state will embrace workplace equality for all."
Just days before he came out in October, Cook spoke to lawmakers in his home state when he was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, lambasting the state for being "too slow" when it comes to embracing civil rights progress. In that address delivered at the Alabama State Capitol, Cook urged lawmakers to "create a different future," in which LGBT Alabamians cannot be fired for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Alabama is one of 29 U.S. states that currently offers no protection for LGBT employees who are fired, not promoted, or not hired because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Efforts to pass federal employment protections, in the form of the long-languishing Employment Non-Discrimination Act, have stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives after passing the U.S. Senate with a bipartisan majority last year.