Microsoft Changes Stand on Gay Issues

Company-wide memo from CEO lays out why Microsoft is switching its support for gay rights legislation.
After withdrawing its support for a pending gay rights bill in Washington State, Microsoft has changed its mind.

In an email to employees Friday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said after thinking the issue over -- such as whether it was appropriate for a public corporation to get involved in such public policy discussions -- he decided to err on the side of diversity.

''Regardless of where people came down on the issues, everyone expressed strong support for the company's commitment to diversity,'' Ballmer's memo said. ''To me, that's so critical. Our success depends on having a workforce that is as diverse as our customers -- and on working together in a way that taps all of that diversity.''

Microsoft said it released the memo to the public in response to widespread public interest in the company's position about the anti-discrimination legislation.

Although Microsoft is among the earliest companies to extend company benefits to same-sex partners, a prior memo from Ballmer, explaining why Microsoft decided to remain neutral on an anti-discrimination bill in Washington State, sparked an uproar among gay rights groups.

''I 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,'' Ballmer said.

''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.''

But after looking at the question from all sides, Ballmer said he concluded that diversity in the workplace is also an important issue for the company.

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