In a move that angered many of the company's gay employees, the Microsoft Corporation, publicly perceived as the vanguard institution of the new economy, has taken a major political stand in favor of age-old discrimination.
The Stranger has learned that last month the $37-billion Redmond-based software behemoth quietly withdrew its support for House bill 1515, the anti-gay-discrimination bill currently under consideration by the Washington State legislature, after being pressured by the Evangelical Christian pastor of a suburban megachurch.
The pastor, Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, met with a senior Microsoft executive in February and threatened to organize a national boycott of the company's products if it did not change its stance on the legislation, according to gay rights activists and a Microsoft employee who attended a subsequent April 4 meeting where Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, told a group of gay staffers about Hutcherson's threat....
At the April 4 meeting, Smith told members of GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, that the company had switched its official stance to "neutral" on the bill, and took personal responsibility for the decision. He characterized the shift as part of a broader general review of company policy designed to more precisely formulate criteria for determining when Microsoft should involve itself in "social issues," but also disclosed the pressure that had been brought to bear on him by Hutcherson....
"The pastor of a megachurch gets a meeting in two weeks with one of the top executives at one of the world's most powerful corporations. He makes these idle threats and he gets everything he wants," the GLEAM member who reported Smith's comments says. "Microsoft just got taken to the cleaners on this issue."
If you read the longer quote more closely, you'll see that this may not be an isolated incident. This capitulation to the Christian Right is part of an overall strategy of reviewing Microsoft's social policy positions. Who knows where pressure from the Christian Right will lead now.