Microsoft rethinking decision over gay rights legislation

Microsoft is rethinking its decision to withdraw backing for gay rights legislation in its home state after it came in for heavy criticism, not least from its own employees.

The company had supported previous bills but made a decision to narrow its focus to bills that had a direct bearing on the business.

However it had not expected the backlash after the bill, which would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians, failed by a single vote.

Chairman Bill Gates said he was surprised by the reaction.

‘Next time this one comes around, we’ll see,’ he said. ‘We certainly have a lot of employees who sent us mail. Next time it comes around that’ll be a major factor for us to take into consideration.’

Gates added that both he and CEO Steve Ballmer supported the bill and denied that the decision to withdraw support was a result of a campaign by the Rev Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Microsoft’s home town. He threatened a nationwide boycott of the company.

‘I want every employee to understand that the decision to take a neutral stance on this bill was taken before the session began based on a desire to focus our legislative efforts, not in reaction to any outside pressure’, Ballmer said in an email to employees.

However gay rights activists have accused it of giving in to the religious right. The Human Rights Campaign, a campaign group for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender rights, sent an open letter expressing its ‘profound disappointment’.

Microsoft has an exemplary record on gay rights and was one of the first companies to extend its domestic partners benefits to gay employees.

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