Microsoft, Vulcan, RealNetworks Back Gay Marriage in WA

1/19/12Follow @curtwoodward

Microsoft is joining several other notable corporate names throwing their support behind full marriage rights for gay couples in Washington state, a move that could give a final push to gay-marriage efforts at that state Capitol this year.

The companies—including RealNetworks, Concur, and Paul Allen’s Vulcan—announced their support for a possible state gay-marriage law on Thursday. The Seattle Times has a copy of the letter the firms sent to state officials.

Microsoft further explains its position in a blog post by its head lawyer, Brad Smith, who says that granting full rights to same-sex couples would reflect the company’s values and be “good for our business and good for the state’s economy.”

“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. Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent,” Smith wrote.

Smith noted that gay marriage is legal in six other states, including Massachusetts and New York. California’s gay-marriage laws are still tied up in court, after one federal judge overturned a previous gay-marriage ban.

In a short statement on its Facebook page, Vulcan said supporting gay marriage “is part of our company’s core values, which include appreciation and support for employees with diverse backgrounds. We believe that everyone has the right to be valued on their merits and contributions, not on their sexual orientation.”

Microsoft’s support for gay marriage in Washington is hugely significant.

Legislators in Olympia are now just one vote shy of being able to pass a bill legalizing civil marriages for same-sex couples, and one of the state senators representing parts of Microsoft’s hometown of Redmond, Republican Andy Hill, has been among the undecided.

As a humongous publicly traded corporation with tens of thousands of employees, Microsoft also has to sound a bit of a cautious note, saying that it respects the views of employees who might disagree with the company’s embrace of gay marriage rights.

“We’re not asking anyone to change their views to conform to the company’s position,” Smith wrote.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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