Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Microsoft vows to back legislation on gay rights in future

AP , SEATTLE

After being criticized for quietly dropping support for a state gay rights bill, Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer told employees on Friday that management would publicly back such legislation in the future.

Ballmer's e-mail came two weeks after activists accused the company of caving to pressure from an evangelical pastor who had threatened to launch a nationwide boycott of the company.

"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," Ballmer wrote.

Ballmer said he would not discuss what prompted Microsoft to take a neutral stance this year on a bill it had actively supported in the past.

Microsoft had earlier claimed that its decision preceded a meeting with the Reverend Ken Hutcherson, pastor of a local church who has organized anti-gay-marriage rallies in Seattle and Washington.

Hutcherson has said he pressured Microsoft after hearing two employees testify in favor of a bill in the Washington state legislature that would have banned discrimination against gays in housing, employment and insurance. The bill died by a single vote in the state Senate in late April.

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