Microsoft Makes Business Case for Marriage Equality

The software giant's top lawyer discusses why supporting gay marriage and LGBT equality makes business sense.

Microsoft support of LGBT

Microsoft, already a supporter of same-sex marriage, is now setting out to educate businesses on the effects of marriage equality on the workplace.

"Diversity and inclusion help drive our business and our bottom line," said Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, in a statement using his own company as an example. "Our customers literally are as diverse as the people of the world. To create technology that empowers the world, we need a workforce that reflects the diversity of the world."

"Put in this context, it's clear to us that strengthening LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] equality—including marriage equality—plays a critical role in promoting diversity and inclusion," continued Smith.

At Microsoft, diversity is viewed as a competitive advantage of sorts. Smith asserted that "there is no substitute for our employees' diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences when it comes to understanding customer needs, developing new products or designing successful marketing campaigns. In short, the diversity of our workforce is an important bridge to the global marketplace."

Promoting equality also helps the company attract and retain skilled workers. "To recruit the best talent we need to create an environment in which everyone is welcome and valued," said Smith. Finally, a diverse workplace is a successful one.

"Our commitment to treating all our employees equally has helped our business grow as well as being the right thing to do," he said.

Like Google, Apple and other tech companies, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is a long-time supporter of LGBT equality, noted Smith. In 1993, Microsoft was the first Fortune 500 company to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partnerships, he said.

In 2008, when faced with California's controversial Proposition 8 (Prop 8) ballot measure, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state, Google's co-founder Sergey Brin took the rare step of staking out the company's position on a social issue.

"While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8—we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love," wrote Brin in an official Google blog post at the time.

"Together, we are committed to diversity within our company and the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere," stated Apple CEO Tim Cook on the company's diversity Website. "Apple is also a sponsor of the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBT rights organization," he noted.

Last year, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepped down after it was revealed that he had contributed $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: It's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves," wrote Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, in an April 3, 2014 blog post. Eich's short-lived stint as the browser maker's chief executive ended when he decided to resign "for Mozilla and for our community."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...