Microsoft has officially come out in support of two pieces of legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.
Microsoft, which is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, explained its support by saying that discrimination of any kind lowers the quality of employees that the company is able to hire. A statement on The Official Microsoft Blog titled "Marriage Equality in Washington State Would Be Good for Business" reads in part:
Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples - Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent.
Microsoft has joined forces with five other companies, including Vulcan (founded by none other than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), Nike, RealNetworks, Group Health Cooperative and Concur, sent a joint letter to Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, which according to The Atlantic, read simply, "We write you today to show the support of our respective companies for SB 6239 and HB 2516 recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples."
Both bills are set for public hearing on January 23. If passed the legislation would allow civil marriages between same-sex couples.
Microsoft is a long-time supporter of gay rights and marriage equality. It was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to provide benefits for the same-sex partners of its employees, according to Microsoft. According to GLEAM, Microsoft's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employee resource group, Microsoft was also one of the first companies in the world to write a nondiscrimination policy that protected against discrimination due to sexual orientation.
As reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, in November, Microsoft joined Google and 70 other companies in publicly opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to define marriage as only valid between a man and a woman.
In 2005, Microsoft pulled its support for a bill banning discrimination against gays and lesbians. The company was harshly criticized after the bill went on to fail by one vote. At the time, The Seattle Times reported that Microsoft was accused of pulling its support due to pressure from a powerful Redmond pastor. However, a Microsoft spokesperson told The Times that the withdrawal of support was due to the company's push to concentrate lobbying efforts on other issues.