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Big gay rights bill loses in Washington State by one vote - Where was Microsoft?

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The gay rights bill I reported on last night just lost in the Washington state Senate minutes ago by a 24-25 vote, i.e., by one vote.

All the Republicans voted against the bill, and at least one Democrat. Apparently the forces of good did win a procedural vote to force the bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor, but then it was killed by the 24-25 vote. As an interesting aside, if you can call it that, one of the moderate Republicans voting against the bill was the guy representing Redmond, Microsoft's district.

And speaking of Microsoft, haven't heard a lot from them today, have we.

I'm hearing rumblings that Microsoft is now claiming the story in The Stranger is "wrong." That's the story that exposed last night that Microsoft refused to endorse the bill this time around, even though they had previously endorsed it, and that Microsoft's non-endorsement came on the heels of a boycott threat from a single anti-gay radical right preacher.

So what exactly isn't true about the story? You mean Microsoft DID support this year's gay rights bill? Well, not according to all the top sources I talked to in Washington state over the past 24 hours. According to them, people have known for weeks that Microsoft caved. And if the story were wrong, and Microsoft did support the legislation, then why didn't Microsoft speak out today to correct this "error"? And why didn't Microsoft call The Stranger back before the story went to print, in order to give their side and correct the "error" before it went to press? (They refused to call back.) Why, indeed.

It's hard to reach any other conclusion than that Microsoft just screwed us. The bill lost by one vote, and it's hard to imagine that Microsoft, run by the richest man in the world, couldn't have had some influence on which way that one vote swung, especially when Microsoft's own member of the Senate is a moderate R and voted the wrong way.

Microsoft has been a champion of gay rights for years. But by the admission of their own staff, as quoted in The Stranger, they've decided to reevaluate how much they get involved in these kind of political debates, and clearly their reevaluation has told them to get LESS involved, not MORE.

Microsoft, for whatever reason, has decided it's time to pull back from its previous decade long (if not more) support for civil rights in general, and the civil rights of gays and lesbians in specific. That's not only sad and infuriating, it's also incredibly ominous. It means the culture wars have taken their toll on the richest man in the world, and one of the biggest companies in America. It means that Microsoft may very well go soft on it's pro-gay advocacy in other states and at the national level. And finally, it means that other companies may now follow Microsoft's lead and jilt the gays as well.

Hell, if the richest man in the world thinks helping the homos is bad business, who's to argue?

What we may have just witnessed over the past 24 hours is the beginning of a business backlash against gays and our civil rights as Americans. The attacks started years ago from the religious right, worked its way into the US presidency and the Congress, and then down into the states. And now, America's top corporations - businesses who we counted as our friends - are offering us up for slaughter.

Shame on Microsoft. It had the chance to stand up and show the country that you can do well by doing good. But instead it sat by and shut up while our civil rights went down in flames. And yes, Microsoft was great on gay rights issues in the past. But that's all the more reason to be confused and troubled by their actions today, and all the more reason to be concerned, very concerned, that this is a sign of more betrayals to come from Microsoft, and those businesses who now choose to follow the prejudiced precedent that Microsoft just set.

It's one thing to watch a right-wing company take pot shots at you. It's quite another to watch a longtime friend stab you in the back. That's not something you recover from, ever.

PS I just heard a new joke today:

Q: How do you spell "Microsoft"?
A: C-o-o-r-s

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