Saturday, May 07, 2005

Diversity right now, Dammit Redux.......

Last month I posted Diversity right now, Dammit! , my personal take on controversy surrounding Microsoft's refusal to endorse HB1515, a Washington State legislative bill concerning discrimination of gays.

I noted then that "The company already offers protection for "gender identity and expression" and that "they were one of the first Corporations to extend benefits to same sex domestic partners".

It seemed to me, that Microsoft had proven its position on equality in the workplace quite well.

I was also, I noted, happy to see Microsoft not taking a stand on a social legislative issue. I felt keeping businesses out of the government was a good thing.

Well, Microsoft endured a backlash from all manner of people, mostly because they were accused of caving in to a local congregation led by a nationally anti-gay rights activist. And the backlash apparently worked.

Steve Ballmer announced the following:

"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. Since our beginning nearly 30 years ago, Microsoft has had a strong business interest in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest and most diverse workforce possible. 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."

They caved.

I guess maybe they had to, the gay lobby beat them pretty hard according to articles. In one example:

"In late April, Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, asked Microsoft to return a civil rights award the group had given the company four years ago. "

Maybe that was the kicker, who knows? Can't lose our civil rights awards.

One thing that kills me is all the critics condemned MS for caving to a religious group, and those same groups are rejoicing now that MS has caved in to a social lobby. I guess it just depends on who you cave in to.

But the real issue, which is being swept under the media rug, is Should a business be lobbying for social legislation in the first place?

To me the answer is an obvious no. A corporation should keep its paychecks out of government business. We hear the accusations all the time, Republicans and Big Business, Republicans support Corporate America over the citizen, Corporate lobbyists sway the government...a google search of Republicans and big business got me 205k hits. The liberals love to dance this one around.

Once again the pot calls the kettle black. In this case liberal civil rights groups doesn't mind a big business lobbying the government, because it favors them.

All I know is that I am disappointed. I thought Microsoft had taken a balanced and reasoned approach and made a good choice.

Granted the damage to HB 1515 is done, it failed by one vote. Ironically, the reports that Microsoft "withdrew" its support are false anyway, near as I can tell, aside from two employees testimony, Microsoft never did support it.

And really there isn't much in there I would not support, at least based on a quick look, though I there are a few things that concern me.

But next year, or later this year, it will be back, this time with its corporate big brother. And it will likely pass.

And now that Microsoft has visibly given in to the gay lobby, can we expect Microsoft to lobby for other gay rights, such as Marriage? The lobby has seen its power work. It has a patron and it will try to use it again.

Maybe I am sour graping this to death. Could be.

But honestly, after seeing Microsoft face down the Federal Government and the European Union in their lawsuits, I didn't expect them to flinch when GLEAM got mad.

The squeaky wheel truly does get the grease....

My Bottom Line:

The farther we keep Corporations away from Government, the better I like it.