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Microsoft, please keep letting your general counsel speak

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Microft's General Counsel, Brad Smith, seems to have a career death wish. The man just can't shut up, and he can't stop digging a deeper and deeper hole for his bosses.

Now, remember, Smith is the guy who pretty much created this entire debacle for Microsoft. He's the guy who met with the employee gay group. And let me remind you of what happened at that little meeting:

At the April 4 meeting, Smith told members of GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, that the company had switched its official stance to "neutral" on the bill, and took personal responsibility for the decision. He characterized the shift as part of a broader general review of company policy designed to more precisely formulate criteria for determining when Microsoft should involve itself in "social issues," but also disclosed the pressure that had been brought to bear on him by Hutcherson.
Yes, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith is personally responsible for axing the gay rights bill.

He's also the guy who met with the religious right preacher and, according to the preacher in a new article in Seattle's "The Stranger" (the alternative weekly that broke this story last week), Smith told the preacher that the company was still supporting the civil rights bill when they met earlier this year. This totally contradicts what Microsoft is now claiming - namely, that they didn't JUST drop their support, i.e., because the preacher pressured them.
Hutcherson said that he asked for a meeting with Microsoft after becoming upset that two company employees had testified in favor of the bill on February 1. He first met with Smith and three other lower-ranking executives on February 23.

At that meeting, Smith made it clear to the pastor that the company supported the bill, Hutcherson said. Smith told him, he said, that the company had recently been asked by GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, but the company had said no. Smith went on to say that Microsoft did support the anti-discrimination legislation, and he described it as a “civil rights issue”—a red flag for Hutcherson, who is African American—Hutcherson said. The pastor recalled asking Smith a question: “You won’t stand up for two men or two women getting married, but you will put your power behind a guy who wants to dress up in a dress and come to work?”

Smith replied, according to Hutcherson’s recollection, “That’s our policy. We thought this is a good bill to stand behind.”
Funny, that's not what Smith says now. Smith says they decided LAST FALL OR WINTER to be neutral. There's more:
[The religious right preacher Ken Hutcherson] said that eventually Smith agreed to meet with him again sometime in mid-March.

At that meeting, “[Smith] said, ‘We are going to be neutral. This is the conclusion we’ve come to,’” Hutcherson said.
Again, this is consistent with what the gay employees allege as well, that Smith told them in early April that the company had "switched" its view to neutral - not that the change had occured 5 months prior to that.

It's funny how both sides, the gays and the evil pastor, seem to agree on one thing - Microsoft General Counsil Brad Smith is the bad guy in this whole affair. He's the one who supposedly told both that he had just recently changed Microsoft's position on the bill to "neutral" partly as a result of pressure from the preacher. Amazing how numerous witnesses at separate meetings with Smith supposedly got the story wrong but SMITH got it right in both cases.

Oh but there's more. Remember the openly-gay state representative who was the chief proponent of the gay rights bill? Look what he had to say about Brad Smith in the first Stranger story:
State Rep. Ed Murray, a gay Democrat representing Capitol Hill and the prime sponsor of the bill, confirmed that Smith also told him about the pressure from Hutcherson during an awkward and at times heated March 29 conference call in which they discussed the company's decision to end its active support for the bill.
Now, isn't that amazing. A THIRD person and a THIRD conversation with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith in which Smith allegedly linked the religious right pastor's pressure to the company having ONLY RECENTLY dropped support for the bill. But all three sources, from three different meetings, are wrong about what happened at those meetings, and Brad Smith is right about each one. Amazing coincidence, isn't it?

And of course, he wouldn't be doing his job if Microsoft's wonderful general counsel didn't give yet another quote to tick off the gay community, effectively blaming us for this entire scandal. In the new Stranger article Smith says:
“I regret the company is being depicted by some as a company not committed to those principles [of diversity].”
Yes, well, Brad, I'd say we regret that Microsoft is foolish enough to keep you on the payroll, but I'd actually have to take that back. We're pleased as punch that you're not yet paying the price for your handling of this entire situation.

I mean, it appears that you're the one who messed up relations with the gays, who messed up relations with the preacher, who messed up relations with the openly-gay member of the state legislature who is not only one of the most powerful politicians in the state but who also oversees the committee you need for your company's expansion, and you are publicly blaming America's civil rights community for the entire situation Microft finds itself in.

And then you turn around and mouth off to the press blaming the victim. All that does is fuel the flames of this controversy, fan the media, and tick off gays and their allies even more.

So, Mr. Gates, if you're reading this blog, please give Brad a big fat raise. He's making our job easy.

Then again, you could always fire Smith, blame the entire mess on him, go back to your original pro-gay positions on everything and we could all move on.

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