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Microsoft Pushing WA State to Legalize Gay Marriage

Microsoft has joined Vulcan, NIKE, RealNetworks, Group Health Cooperative, and Concur in supporting bills (SB 6239 and HB 2516) that would legalize gay marriage in the state of Washington, the Redmond company's home turf.

Microsoft's argument is that it's difficult to hire the best people in the industry while residing in a state that may discriminate against their sexual preference. Marriage equality in Washington would be good for business, the company claims. Discrimination would not.

"As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington's employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families," writes Microsoft's Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs. "Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent. Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbors."

"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," he adds. "This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent."

News of Microsoft’s support arrives as the Senate seeks one final state senator to vote in favor of Senate Bill 6239 -- 25 votes are needed for passage. The House version already has enough supporting lawmakers to approve it, and Gov. Chris Gregoire is even backing the bill. Even more, state Sen. Jim Kastama, who previously opposed same-sex marriage, is now one of the 24 senators actually supporting the Senate's bill.

"It's a significant step [in getting the bill passed]," said Sen. Ed Murray, the bill's sponsor in the Senate. "But having lived through trying to find that last vote on the gay- and lesbian civil-rights bill, I am not yet ready to celebrate." His statement refers to a gay-rights legislation that failed by one vote in 2005 in the Senate.

Microsoft’s stance isn't without criticism. Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, ridiculed the Redmond-based company and its fellow supporters for caving in to the bullying tactics of the pro-same-sex-marriage camp.

"I think it's totally inappropriate for a company to take this position," he said. "They are a software company, not a PAC, and the only reason they take a position and essentially stick a finger in the eye of their customers is that they think life would be too miserable if they don't."

Microsoft said it respects the views of those who may not agree with its position, within or outside the company. "We have many highly valued and highly successful employees who hold a wide range of views on this and many other issues," Microsoft's Brad Smith writes. "We’re not asking anyone to change their views to conform to the company’s position."