Why does this man hate gays?
In turning its back on a Washington State gay rights bill (HR 1515) it had previously supported, Microsoft has caved to the the worst sort of religiously bigoted blackmail imaginable. The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly first broke this story, though I first read about the incident in the NY Times, Microsoft Under Fire for Reversal on Gay Rights Bill.
The bill had already passed the State House and lost by a single vote in the State Senate on Thursday (see Seattle Times story). As the largest private employer in Seattle (and perhaps all of Washington), the state legislature looks to Microsoft for guidance on major policy issues like this. When the company backed off its previous position, it effectively doomed the proposal.
So who’s the culprit? Yes, I’m afraid to say its the evangelical Christian right (a subject you’ve been hearing about in this blog especially regarding its pernicious knee jerk support of Israeli policies). In this case, it’s Ken Hutcherson of Redmond’s Antioch Bible Church (Hutcherson, by the way is African-American, a former Bible student of Tim LaHaye and former Dallas Cowboys player–too bad he didn’t stay in Texas), who met twice with Microsoft representatives before the Senate vote. In those meetings, he threatened the company with a national boycott if they didn’t back off their support.
Hutch with Hummer at D.C.
May Day for Marriage Rally
Even more ominously (as if the above isn’t ominous enough), Hutcherson demanded that MS fire any employee who testified before the Legislature in support of the legislation. Can you imagine that in this fairly progressive state and in this day and age, religious bigots like Hutcherson get the right to run roughshod over a major corporation like MS and over all citizens of the state who’d like to see gay rights protected?
Perhaps most distressing to me of all in this entire ridiculous incident is that Microsoft did a cold, hard calculation. There are far more evangelicals in this country likely to heed a call for a boycott than there are gays and lesbians. MS knew that it stood more to lose economically if it offended evangelicals. And so doing the right thing suddenly became an expensive proposition.
MS representatives, of course, deny that the meetings with the good Reverend had anything to do with their new position on the bill. It was all a matter of deciding what their legislative priorities should be and this bill simply didn’t fit. But Rep. Ed Murray, the bill’s sponsor, put the lie to this obfuscation:
In a conversation last month with Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s senior vice president and general counsel, Smith made it clear that the company was under pressure from the church and the pastor and that [Smith] was also concerned about the reaction to company support of the bill among its Christian employees.
Murray said in a recent conversation with Smith, [the latter] said the minister demanded the company fire Microsoft employees who testified this year on behalf of the bill, but that Mr. Smith refused. According to Murray, Smith said "that while he did not do the many things that the minister had requested, including firing employees who had testified for the bill, he believed that Microsoft could not just respond to one group of employees, when there were other groups of employees who felt much different.
"My refrain back to him was that this is a historic moment, that I only had a few weeks, and I wanted Microsoft to do the right thing," the legislator said. "Their concern was that they were hearing from conservative employees who were connected to this minister and needed to sort out how they were going to deal with those problems."
Representative Murray said the company’s contention that the decision not to support the bill had nothing to do with the church was "an absolute lie."
So much for corporate spinelessness. In The Stranger article, Murray also reveals how demeaning Smith acted towards him during their phone conversation:
The call went very badly, Murray says, with Smith, apparently irked by Murray’s attempts to influence him, launching into a "vicious attack on me" in which he belittled Murray’s political and legislative skills. "I’m a politician. I’m used to people talking to me like I’m a piece of shit, but I have never had anyone talk to me the way this guy did," Murray says. He eventually cut Smith off, saying, as he recalled it, "I know I’m not one of the Masters of the Universe. I’m just some hayseed legislator, but don’t tell me how to do my job."
Returning to Rev. Hutcherson, he appears to be some piece of the Lord’s work. Would you like to meet this guy in a dark alley or at a ballot box?
Hutcherson, a leading national critic of same-sex marriage, said he believed he could have organized a widespread boycott of Microsoft. He said he told the Microsoft executives, "If you don’t think the moral issue is not a big issue, just count the amount of votes that were cast on moral issues in the last election.
"I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about," he said.
Whoa, that’s chilling stuff!
I’d like to call for two things to happen. First, all those who detest this abominable decision by Microsoft should refuse to buy their products until they rescind their policy regarding this bill. Second, we must call on our senators and representatives to bring this bill up again. And if they don’t, then let’s organize an initiative campaign throughout the state to let the people decide. I’m sure gay-hater Hutcherson has lots of followers and true believers throughout this state. But I’m equally sure that the largest and most liberal population center of the state, Seattle, has far more numbers who detest Hutcherson’s views and are offended by Microsoft’s behavior.
The Stranger article closes by quoting a gay Microsoft employee: "Microsoft needs to feel the pain of a bad decision here." Yes, indeed. Let’s make them feel it.