Microsoft pledges support for Washington gay marriage bill to attract tech talent

23 Jan 2012

Microsoft is among five other companies which are calling for Washington State to legalise same-sex marriage saying that by providing an inclusive working environment, it will attract talent to the state.

Microsoft, which is headquartered in Redmond, Washington with 40,000 employees, has given their support to Washington’s marriage equality legislation – Senate Bill 6239 and HB2516 – arguing that if the bills are passed, it would boost the state’s economy. Other companies which support the bills include Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc.

Microsoft said that it wants its workforce to be “as diverse as its customers” and says that they “reflect every background in the country and on the planet.” It said that inclusiveness is a fundamental part of its values, making it a key part of its success.

It argues that Washington state employers are at a disadvantage if they can’t offer a similar environment to other states which have legalised same sex marriage.

“Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent,” said Brad Smith, general Counsel & executive vice president of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft.

“Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbours.

“Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognise the committed relationships of same-sex couples – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent,” he said.

Smith noted that while its argument for same-sex marriage was motivated by respect for its employees, it also said it would respect the views of those who do not agree with legalising same-sex marriage saying that it was “not asking anyone to change their views to conform to the company’s position.”

However, he said that the bill proposed would preserve religious freedom in Washington’s churches while stopping discrimination in Washington law.

The bills are scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Tribal Relations and Elections on 23 January.