(Political rant starting, so watch out.)
This week there was a lot of uproar over Microsoft withdrawing its support for a Washington state anti-gay-discrimination bill. You can read more about it in this article (somewhat biased) in our alternative newspaper The Stranger. I'm fairly apathetic when it comes to politics, but civil rights and abortion rights have always been of interest to me.
The fact that someone would oppose an anti-discrimination bill baffles me. I haven't read much about it, but I'm still astonished as to why the Equal Rights Amendment never passed. Some people argue these bills are "redundant" with other laws. So what? If some large group is feeling discriminated against, and there's sufficient evidence that it's true, why not pass the bill? Isn't voting against something like this in effect saying it's ok to discriminate against x kind of people?
I'm not sure why some segment of Americans (and in most cases it seems to be conservative, usually evangelical Christians) feels like they need to get up in everyone else's personal business. One of my favorite bumper stickers says "Against abortion? Then don't have one."
So if you read the Stranger article, it says Microsoft caved under pressure from this crazy preacher named Ken Hutcheson who has this mega church that meets in the Kirkland High School auditorium. I wish I could say this was somewhere rural, in the middle of the state, out in the backwoods. Unfortunately it's about 15 minutes from where we live in Redmond. And the congregation has several members who work at Microsoft. I know a company as large as Microsoft is bound to have a diverse collection of views and religious beliefs, so I guess I shouldn't be disappointed by that, even though my past experience has shown smart geeky people are usually pretty tolerant (or at least, apathetic) of people's differences.
The thing that gets me is this preacher. How can someone who claims to be doing "God's work" spew such intolerance towards others? And why does he use his position of authority to spread his intolerance? And why doesn't he just stick with preaching and charitable works, rather than meeting with business leaders to threaten them with boycotts so that he can spread his intolerance into our laws. And why does Microsoft give this guy the time of day? He got to meet with Brad Smith, our chief counsel, plus some other high level execs. Why are our execs wasting their time on this crap? In addition "Rev." Hutcheson demanded that two Microsoft employees who testified in the House in support of the bill be fired. (They were reflecting their own personal stance, not representing Microsoft.)
Steve Ballmer explained Microsoft withdrawing support for the bill yesterday in an email he sent to employees. He said they were planning to do it all along (Microsoft is officially "neutral" now) because they had to pick and choose their battles, as well as respect the wishes of *all* shareholders, including the intolerant homophobe ones. (Obviously I'm paraphrasing here.) I can understand not wanting to have a corporate position on this. He did mention that they did not cave in response to this preacher guy - the decision had been made long before that. And they are, of course, not going to fire those two employees. I actually felt better about the whole thing after reading this message. It seemed genuine and heartfelt (maybe his communications staff are just really good) but I didn't get the sense that "the man" was trying to spin the story. And that makes me feel good about working at Microsoft.
There was an article in Seattle magazine a few months ago about Rev. Hutcheson and it just made my skin crawl. He grew up playing football because it was the only way he could beat the crap out of white people. But apparently he changed his racist ways when he met his wife, who's white. I guess his viewpoint changes whenever it suits him (or when it comes to cute women). Plus, having a giant multiracial congregation is probably more lucrative for him anyway. They're saving up money to build one of those giant "megachurches" somewhere in the area. Maybe it'll have a McDonald's in it (see previous post about "Supersize Me") I can't believe this man has so many followers, in what I thought was a liberal city. I'm all for religious freedom but I do strongly believe in separation of church and state, and church and business. And it should stay the heck out of other peoples' (ie non-members) personal business.
Against gay marriage? Then don't have one.