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Redmond campaigns for gay marriage rights

RealNetworks and Nike join fight for equality

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Microsoft has thrown its political weight behind a new law in its home state of Washington that would set up equal marriage rights for LGBT couples, an effort joined by local employers RealNetworks and Nike.

In a blog post, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said that the state needed the law so that local employers could attract the best talent to the state. LBGT people are unlikely to want to move somewhere that denies them the same rights as heterosexual staff, he argues, so the status quo makes Redmond less attractive.

“Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families,” Smith wrote. “Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbors. Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples.”

Smith pointed out that Microsoft has always been in the vanguard of support for LGBT employees, becoming the first Fortune 500 company to offer same-sex couples equal benefits back in 1993. This latest move is an extension of existing policy, and the company hopes that a Monday hearing in the Washington senate chambers will go in favor of equality.

That said, Microsoft is not facing too big of a competitive problem at the moment, since four of the six states in the US that allow LGBT marriage - Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont – aren’t hotbeds of technology expertise, while arguments could be made for the tech biz in the other two, Massachusetts and New York.

But if California does reinstate equal marriage rights for LGBT couples – a lawsuit for that purpose is currently wending its way through the courts – then Redmond could face a tougher time recruiting. Microsoft has been hemorrhaging good (and not-so-good) staff to Silicon Valley startups for some time, and if the Washington law passes it would give an incentive for LGBT staff to remain Microsofties.

Microsoft’s stand has, however, drawn criticism from the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” brigade. A spokesman for the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), which seeks to “impart a biblical worldview for those committed to Judeo-Christian truths,” told The Register that Redmond was sticking its nose into other people’s business.

“It seems a provocative thing for Microsoft to do,” the FPIW spokesman told us. “I don’t know if it’s in the best interests of companies to take positions on controversial social issues - it seems an odd business decision to make when they sell a lot of their products the US. The reason they did this is that they have been beaten down by the human rights campaigners on this.”

As a lapsed member of the Church of England, this El Reg hack is slightly baffled by the furore over this issue, and why marriage equality is such a threat to heterosexual marriage. Jesus certainly never mentioned gay marriage in any of the Bible's four accounts of his life, but he was unequivocal in condemning divorce among straight couples.

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery,” Luke 16:18 quotes the Nazarene as saying – although in Matthew 19:9 he does apparently allow it in cases when the wife has been unfaithful.

Oddly, very few objectors to LGBT marriage seem to have read this part of the Bible, and it’s never brought up by religious leaders who depend on buns on seats to pay their church's bills. In the US, around half of all marriages involve a divorced person, and yet there seem to be no pickets outside these weddings or complaints from protestors.

An odd country, the US – at least from this Brit's point of view. ®

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