Another reason to switch?

After Microsoft withdraws its support, Washington's state senate defeats a measure that would have outlawed anti-gay discrimination.

Published April 21, 2005 8:54PM (EDT)

Maybe Microsoft isn't the Great Satan that it once was -- in the public imagination, Wal-Mart has pretty much overtaken that role -- but there are still plenty of folks who hold a special place in the darkest corners of their hearts for the world's largest software company.

According to The Stranger, an alternative weekly from Seattle, there's a whole new reason to dislike Microsoft: The company, the paper says, withdrew its support from legislation in the state of Washington that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill was defeated in the Washington Senate this afternoon, 25-24.

According to The Stranger, Microsoft withdrew its support for the bill after the leader of a mega-church from Redmond threatened a boycott of Microsoft's products. Earlier this month, the paper says, a Microsoft senior vice president told a group of gay and lesbian employees about the threatened boycott -- and explained that Microsoft would henceforth be "neutral" on a bill it had previously supported. War Room contacted Microsoft for a response this morning; while a member of Microsoft's "rapid response" PR team promised us we'd be hearing from a Microsoft spokeswoman promptly, we're still waiting.

Although Microsoft is generally considered a gay-friendly employer, news that it may have waffled on the anti-discrimination measure -- especially in the face of a single threat from an NFL linebacker-turned-evangelical-minister -- has gay-rights activists none too happy with the company. "Apparently, Microsoft's new motto is 'your potential, our passion, as long as you're not gay or lesbian,'" Dan Kully, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, told us this afternooon. Earlier today, John Aravosis of AMERICAblog suggested in an open letter to Microsoft that advocates of gay rights in Washington could retaliate against the company by organizing concentrated local opposition to its plan to expand its Redmond campus.

"You may have thought 'Hell, the evangelicals boycott us, the gays boycott us -- we've got to choose one, and the evangelicals are in power, so let's screw the gays,'" Aravosis wrote. "But here's something you didn't count on. You messed with the wrong faggots." Aravosis wrote those words just as the story of Microsoft's position on the bill was first making the rounds on the internet -- and before the state senate had rejected the bill by a single vote. If Microsoft was beginning to feel the pain then, we can only imagine what life is like in Redmond right now.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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