WWW Opinion Times

Friday, May 06, 2005

Microsoft Will Lobby for "Anti-Discrimination" Policies as a Part of Its Legislative Agenda

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO sent an email clarifying the company's principles for public policy engagement in response to a flood of email from it's employees criticizing the neutral stance taken when an employee anti-discrimination (read pro-homosexual rights) bill was before the Washington State Legislature. It was defeated by one vote.

Ballmer has determined that lobbying for these laws on the Federal and State level are in the interest of his company,
said in my April 22 email that we were wrestling with the question of how and when the company should engage on issues that go beyond the software industry. After thinking about this for the past two weeks, I want to share my decision with you and lay out the principles that will guide us going forward.

First and foremost, we will continue to focus our public policy activities on issues that most directly affect our business, such as Internet safety, intellectual property rights, free trade, digital inclusion and a healthy business climate.

After looking at the question from all sides, I’ve concluded that diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda. . . . I’m proud of Microsoft’s commitment to non-discrimination in our internal policies and benefits, but our policies can’t cover the range of housing, education, financial and similar services that our people and their partners and families need. Therefore, it’s appropriate for the company to support legislation that will promote and protect diversity in the workplace.
That last bit of language is convoluted political speak for, "we have a large number of homosexual employees, so I want to avert civil war in the ranks."

Not that Ballmer or Founder Bill Gates were particularly enamored Judeo-Christian values--so-called--to begin with. But as incredibly talented and savvy businessmen, they have remained as neutral as possible when it comes to social policy. Not any longer.

This is an important time in the company's history. They have taken a road which will be hard to leave. And the logical conclusion of this new legislative agenda (exhibited in the strained reasoning for not extending the practice to "housing, education, financial and similar [government] services") is to expand toward a more active policy toward political action outside of business issues.

UPDATE: CitizenLink has the story on who influenced the recent vote and Microsoft's role (or lack thereof) in the legislative outcome in Washington State.