Microsoft’s withdrawal of support a Washington state bill aimed at outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation is utterly foul. Microsoft wants to charge for its software, it wants to dominate markets, it wants people to use a non-tabbed browser — all things which some have labeled Evil and I said “eh“. But I am disgusted that a company that utterly relies on the contributions of Computer Science can claim that “the right balance to strike” on (at least) this particular “broad social issue,” is neutrality. Computer Science’s greatest genius, Alan Turing, was a gay man who almost certainly committed suicide because of the associated social stigma. Hardly the first, hardly the last gay to be so harried by the righteous certainty of those who would deprive our society of the benefits of diversity.
According to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s neutral stance on this bill is the consequence of a decision to “focus on a limited number of issues that are more directly related to our business, such as computer privacy, education, and competitiveness.” The assault on rationality being waged by evangelical zealots strikes to each of these issues. Does Microsoft not recognize that anti-gay discrimination is a fundamental judgment on the private activities of consenting adults? Does the active suppression of evolutionary theory cut close enough to the bone to be recognized by Microsoft as a threat to education? And if this judgmental, willfully ignorant, hate-mongering power-grab succeeds, will Microsoft, or any American corporation, remain a place that calls to the best and the brightest? No.
For Microsoft, the corporation, to refuse to stand by the moral principles which, rightly, are shared by Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer (and, not that ethics are a matter of majorities, a vast number of Microsoft employees and shareholders) is foul. This is not a subject, nor even a bill, on which Microsoft has been silent in the pass.
To adopt silence in the face of hatred is not neutrality. It is acquiescence. If there is one thing that the 20th century should have taught society, it is that acquiescence to narrow-mindedness, to certitude, to discrimination and hate, does not lead to compromise, but to extremism and disaster.
Subsequent to the exposure of this issue, the anti-discrimination bill was defeated by a single vote. Further, the purity of Microsoft’s neutrality on “broader social issues” has been brought into question by the revelation that Microsoft has re-initiated a $20,000-per-month relationship with Ralph Reed’s consulting group. Microsoft became silent on this bill because they wanted to avoid controversy. See how that didn’t work?