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Microsoft employees strike back on the blogosphere

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There are some amazing Microsoft employees openly blogging about the way Microsoft abandoned the gay community. I've already mentioned Robert Scoble who has been incredibly brave in defending us publicly, and now there is Adam Barr who wrote a wonderful response to CEO Steve Ballmer's recent email to staff about the situation.

Here's what Adam had to say:

Scoble got permission to post Steve Ballmer's company-wide email about stories that Microsoft had caved to pressure to not support a state anti-discrimination bill.

More specifically, Ballmer states that Microsoft did not decide to stop supporting the bill after two employees testified in favor of it in February, and a local pastor threatened to launch a boycott. Instead, Ballmer says that the company decided in January, when planning its legislative agenda for this year, to be neutral on it, as opposed to supporting it like it did last year.

Scoble says he is disappointed because Microsoft is appearing to cave to anti-gay forces. I disagree with that accusation -- I do believe Ballmer when he says the decision was made in January. It's an unfortunate case where someone asks you to do something and you were already planning on doing it, it's hard to prove that the two were unrelated.

BUT, there is a suspicious part in Ballmer's memo:

"What message does the company taking a position send to its employees who have strongly-held beliefs on the opposite side of the issue?

The bottom line is that I am adamant that Microsoft will always be a place that values diversity, that has the strongest possible internal policies for non-discrimination and fairness, and provides the best policies and benefits to all of our employees.

I am also adamant that I want Microsoft to be a place where every employee feels respected, and where every employee feels like they belong. I don't want the company to be in the position of appearing to dismiss the deeply-held beliefs of any employee, by picking sides on social policy issues."

That, Steve, is a crock, and you must know it. Look, what this says to me is that the following sequence happened:

1. Microsoft sponsored the bill last year.
2. Some employees complained about Microsoft's sponsorship -- not in February of this year, but sometime last year.
3. In respons to employee complaints, Microsoft decided not to sponsor it this year.
4. The company came up with the rationalization above, about how sponsoring the bill could make anti-gay employees feel discriminated against.

Steve, first of all, can we cut this "murderers are victims too" line of thinking? Do you agonize about hurting the feelings of employees who enjoy looking at porn on their computers? What about those who like to post internal schedules on public forums? Do you stay up at night worrying about their feelings? I doubt it.

Second, what you said is wrong. If an employee has deeply-held beliefs that woman are inferior, or a certain ethnic group has negative character traits, the company certainly has no qualms (nor should it) about dismissing those beliefs, no matter how deeply held. I just did my 30-minute anti-harassment self-training that all employees are required to go through, and obviously if someone decides to run around the hallways shouting anti-gay slogans, they will be disciplined in a way that they would not if they ran around the hallways shouting anti-seafood or anti-deodorant slogans. The company supports free speech up to a point, but beyond that, when personal belief becomes harassment, the decision has already been made which one wins.

So I'll allow that Microsoft's decision to not support the anti-gay bill was made in January, but that decision looks very very very very very very very very very very suspicious. I don't think anything fishy happened this spring, but I do think something fishy happened last fall.

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