First, let me say that I never wanted this to a political blog. There are too many out there already, and they all do a better job than I could ever do. If you’re a fan of dKos, or InstaPundit, or both or any others, that’s fine. I would only recommend that you also read other sources, because getting all your news from any one source is always dangerous in the long run.
Second, let me say that both Cyrus (happy b-day later this week) and Scoble have done admirable jobs at “getting out the message” at Microsoft and are to be commended. I highly recommend reading both of them every day (although probably not Cyrus’ if you’re not technically minded).
Both Cyrus and Scoble, among others, have been very passionate about a bill in the Washington State Legislature, HB 1515, which expands the state’s current anti-discrimination standards to include sexual orientation. While I don’t live in Washington, we have similar legislation up for approval here in Indianapolis. What they’ve been passionate about is that their employer (Microsoft) first supported this bill, and then withdrew support, apparently due to the urgings of a conservative religious figure. They feel that it’s the responsibility of a company such as Microsoft to take a stand on such issues, and feel horrible that Microsoft either caved to pressure or decided not to take such a stand. To some degree they’re correct, but to some degree they aren’t. Cyrus invokes Godwin and draws an analogy to Schindler and his protection of the Jews in Germany. There are certainly credible reasons to make such a comparison, and certainly Schindler was correct to do what he did, and I certainly cheer anyone or any corporation willing to stand up to such an injustice. Many would argue that this is just such a case.
Further, let me say that if practical, I would want all interviews (jobs, loans, housing, whatever) to be done through a double-blind system with a moderator. You don't see me; I don't see you, and the moderator buzzes us if we ask or say anything that's out-of-bounds. Of course, this is totally impractical, but I put it out there to show my stance. As an employer, I want the single best employee for me that I can get. I don't care if they're black, white, gay, fat, thin, handicapped, come from Mars, or have two heads and three arms.
However, it is my belief that Dave Winer is closer to the mark here. He says that a corporation should never take a stand on a political issue. I’m not totally certain that that’s correct, but I do believe that IF a company is going to take a stand on political issues, the company must select the issues with great care. It’s important to remember that a company has a responsibility to its shareholders, and to its employees, but it’s also important to realize that politics is a very muddy world, and once you step in, you can get trapped there. Cyrus and Scoble say that this is a human rights issue and they must get involved, but what do they say to the person that screams about the “tens of thousands of voices silenced every year through abortions”? To him/her, it's a human rights issue too, and just as important, if not more so. Where should MS or any employer stand on this issue? What about smoking bans? What about child safety seats in cars? Where should MS stand on all of these? Reasonable people can differ, and yet it's easy to argue that every single one of these issues is a human rights issue and affects thousands of people every year. The issue that they’re so passionate about at the moment may not be nearly as important to me as one of these other issues. How do you feel about these other issues? How would you feel if your employer took a stance on one of them? How would you feel if your employer’s stance was the same OR different than your own?
While I may agree with the principles of the bill, I still believe that MS was correct to withdraw their support. Actually, what would’ve been more correct would’ve been to never offer support in the first place. By offering initial support and withdrawing it, you run the risk of looking cowardly, when in fact, you’ve just regained common sense.
That’s my $.02 on the subject, and it’s probably not worth either the time you took to read it or the time I took to write it. :)
UPDATE: For what it's worth, the Indianapolis ordinance, like it's Washington state cousin, went down last night. Whether you want to cheer or cry about these results is up to you.