Today, Microsoft is joining other Northwest employers Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc. in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. We believe that passing this bill would be good for our business and good for the state’s economy. I wanted to take a few moments to explain why.
At Microsoft, we pride ourselves on our products and services, our brand, and our global reach. But unquestionably, our employees are our greatest asset.
To be successful, it’s critical that we have a workforce that is as diverse as our customers. Every day, the national and global economies are becoming more diverse. The lifeblood of a business is its ability to understand and connect with its customers. We’re no exception. Now more than ever, the most effective workforce is a diverse workforce.
While some of our employees literally grew up around the corner, others have come from every state and almost 150 countries around the world. They reflect virtually every background in the country and on the planet. They bring their creativity to work, and they put it to good use in developing new products and serving our customers. There simply is no substitute for their diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences.
Inclusiveness is therefore a fundamental part of our values, and is integral to the company’s business success.
This means it’s important to go beyond simply forbidding discrimination; we strive to actively promote diversity, equality and inclusion in our workplace. In 1993, Microsoft became the first Fortune 500 company to provide same-sex domestic partnership benefits. For almost two decades, we’ve benefited from this support and the resulting contributions of our LGBT employees.
In addition to corporate policies supporting diversity and equality, we strive to engage in a thoughtful manner in public discussions on issues that have a significant impact on our employees and our business. For example, Microsoft supported legislation in Washington State prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as legislation expanding domestic partnership rights.
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. 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. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent.
While Microsoft’s support for marriage equality is motivated by respect for our employees, we also respect the views of those who may not agree with our position. For example, we have many highly valued and highly successful employees who hold a wide range of views on this and many other issues. We’re not asking anyone to change their views to conform to the company’s position.
We also recognize that marriage has meaning as both a civil and a religious institution. Like the marriage equality bill passed last year in New York State with bipartisan and business support, this bill preserves religious freedom in Washington’s churches while ending discrimination in Washington law.
Like the New York bill, we believe Washington’s legislation should be passed into law. It will make our state and our economy stronger.
Posted by Brad Smith
General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft