Apple CEO Tim Cook Continues Public Campaign for LGBT Workplace Rights

| The Back Page

Apple CEO Tim Cook continued his public campaign in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). On November 3rd, Mr. Cook wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal asking Congress to pass the bill, and on Friday, Mr. Cook tweeted his thanks to the Senate for doing just that, and asked that the House of Representatives follow suit.

That tweet (his link is to The Journal's coverage of the passage of the bill in the Senate):

ENDA bars the government, labor unions, and employers with more than 15 employees from basing its hiring, firing, and promotions based on someone's sexual orientation or "gender identity," a phrase that covers transgender people (the "T" in LGBT).

Mr. Cook's op-ed argued that ending such discrimination is good for employers, employees, and the nation itself, and he offered Apple as an example.

In the Senate, ten Republicans voted with the Democrat majority to pass the bill, and it will next go to the House. Its future there is decidedly less certain, as the conservative wing of the GOP, which controls the House, is largely against such things.

Mr. Cook's public campaign is the first social-political campaign we've seen from an Apple CEO since the company ascended to international fame under CEO Steve Jobs. Of course, it's the first such campaign from an Apple CEO that we've ever seen, but the reality is that the opinion of the CEO of the world's most valuable company carries more weight than the CEO of the world's 6th or 7th biggest PC maker.

In 2008—under then-CEO Steve Jobs—Apple donated US$100,000 to fight Prop. 8 in California, a law that enshrined a ban on gay marriage in the California Constitution. That law was opposed by most of Silicon Valley, and has since been thrown out in a series of court defeats.

Steve Jobs also volunteered to help out Al Gore's marketing in the 2000 election—an offer that was declined—but by and large there have been few public political stances taken by either Mr. Jobs or Tim Cook that didn't have an immediate effect on Apple's businesses.

There is an Apple connection with Tim Cook's column and tweet in support of ENDA—he has argued that ENDA will be good for business—but Apple itself has chosen to adopt a sweeping policy of zero tolerance for LGBT discrimination. ENDA, therefore, will have little impact on the day-to-day goings on at Apple unless you want to take an oblique meta-level look.

Not surprisingly, social conservatives and libertarians alike have taken offense at Mr. Cook's public stance. Reading through The Journal's comments yielded themes of "But what about the bigots? Who will think of their right to discriminate?" for the former group, while the later argued that Apple's own solution to this issue is proof that the government ought not be involved.

The question is whether or not this will have an impact on Apple's sales. You'll find plenty of people commenters who said they would no longer buy Apple products in the wake of Mr. Cook's op-ed, but judging from the derogatory ways used to describe those products in those same posts, it's doubtful any of them were Apple customers to begin with.

In addition, the reality is that while Apple has a reputation of being "liberal"—most of Silicon Valley is left-of-center on social issues and other progressive causes—the company has many admirers across the political spectrum.

For instance, conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh is among the loudest fans of Apple's products. iPhones and iPads are also popular on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

My educated guess is that whether or not this bill passes the House (it won't) and gets signed by President Obama (he has said he will sign it if it does pass), few will remember or think about Tim Cook's public stance on the issue when they buy their gadgets. That's how life works.

Besides, if you want to buy your electronics based on the politics of its maker's CEO, you're kind of screwed. Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin both contributed money to fight Prop. 8; Samsung, heck they're godless foreigners (please note my sarcasm), and the same goes for all of the other handset makers except Apple and Motorola (owned by Google); Microsoft supports gay marriage.

Maybe Nokia? There's no gay marriage in Finland, yet, but that country decriminalized homosexuality in the 1970s. Finland as a whole is far more progressive than the parts of the U.S. where any of this would matter, and we're talking about the country that sided with the Nazis against the Soviet Union (though to be fair, that decision was much more about being against the Soviet Union than being for the Third Reich).

The point is that in technology, tolerance of LGBT issues is the norm, and Tim Cook is in safe territory with his public campaign.

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Comments

iJack

No way to know whether Cook’s OpEd in the WSJ had any effect, or not. Not that it matters, since the Senate (at least) had the balls to actually pass a bill that was about 39 years overdue.

So that’s one thumb up.

Chester Baker

It’s a little sad that he would push so hard for something so bad for businesses.

Government…? I can see that. No one should be denied a taxpayer funded position… But privately owned businesses absolutely should be able to choose who they hire and who they don’t.

Values based businesses (Hobby Lobby, chick-fil-a and the like) should be able to maintain the image they want and hire people who fit that image and roll…

You don’t see laws passed saying that “Hooters” or some “adult entertainment men’s club” have to hire big ugly male waiters!

People get behind these things because they are disguised as human rights issues. But they aren’t. Things like this, when passed, take away rights, hurt economies, and hurt businesses.

Bryan Chaffin

Exactly, Chester! Who will think about the bigots?

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of those laws that keep people from being fired because of their race and religion, too.  If people don’t want to hire Blacks, or Mexicans, or Jews, or Christians, they shouldn’t have to, right? i assume you think it should be OK to fire people just because they’re Christian, too. That’s currently illegal, so let’s get rid of it.

And if some puffed up jackass finds out your daughter had a baby out of wedlock, he should just be able to fire her then and there because she doesn’t meet his definition of family values, right? Or maybe your son has met a girl he likes from another race, and this same puffed up jackass don’t have no truck with mixed-race relationships. Just knowing what your son is doing with that woman could really bring down moral at the company. He’s gotta go!

You’re totally right, Chester, things would be so much better if businesses were able to hire, fire, and promote people based on important things, like they who they love, what they worship, and the color of their skin. All of these protections just get in the way of good people doin’ what’s right.

Chester Baker

Bryan,

Calling people bigots because they don’t agree with your views is the very definition of intolerance. Which, is what people are claiming to be fighting against.

The reality is that it’s incredibly rare for someone in the GLBT community to be discriminated against unless they are specifically looking for reasons to be somewhere acting in a way that they know is contrary to the values of the company.

Most employers are scared to death of firing someone for those reasons already. They already have to jump through hoops to let someone go for perfectly valid reasons that have nothing to do with their sexual preference.

As for your other points of contention with my original comment, yes… I agree that if someone’s preferences interfere with the company values… They need to find other employment.

There aren’t cases (at least very few) of someone actually being fired because of inconsequential preferences… It has to do with over the top flamboyant behavior and intentionally doing things they know will be counter to the vision and image of the company or business owner they work for. This is about religions freedoms being trampled into the ground.

I fully believe that a business owner should be able to fire someone if they don’t like their SHOELACES!

Private business… I don’t know why that’s so hard to understand. Oh well, way of the world I guess. Big government is the law of the land.

Bryan Chaffin

Hi Chester,

A pedantic point: I’m not calling people who disagree with me bigots, I’m applying the label to people who wish to discriminate on a group of people because they believe those people are inferior. It’s because they’re bigoted.

Many of the arguments you are making were made in defense of racism and religious bigotry in decades past. The same thing was true of fights against gender equality.

And the thing is that it has always required government intervention to end such discrimination. Bigoted people have zero incentive to change the status quo on such matters.

This:

There aren’t cases (at least very few) of someone actually being fired because of inconsequential preferences… It has to do with over the top flamboyant behavior and intentionally doing things they know will be counter to the vision and image of the company or business owner they work for. This is about religions freedoms being trampled into the ground.

The above is only reasonable if you accept the idea that homosexuality is immoral or otherwise inferior (i.e. if you’re a bigot). From where I sit on this issue, your choice of language highlights the root issue.

Lastly, this notion of religious freedom being trampled is so fundamentally flawed and twisted that it utterly escapes me. I can’t empathize at all with the idea that your interpretation of religion is paramount, that it is above the way someone is born. Why should any religion in this country get to discriminate against someone else? It’s startlingly un-American to me.

You implied in your second post that you would be OK if an employer fired someone just because they were Christian. If you do, I applaud you for being consistent. Not that you need my applause—I didn’t mean it that way. I meant that I respect the consistency. There’s some other emotion running through my head on the issue that I’m finding it difficult to express. From my viewpoint, most Christian social conservatives would be up in arms at the idea, and I have a philosophical issue with that inconsistency.

i do have some empathy for a purely libertarian view that government has no business interfering in what any business or individual does or doesn’t do, etc. I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it. I can’t understand a subset of Christians who believe that their view of the world should allow them to discriminate.

Tim Cook’s letter (the only reason we’re talking about this subject) makes the case that putting this issue behind us will be good for business, and by extension, good for the U.S. I agree with that.

Chester Baker

Well, I don’t think we will ever agree on this, which is fine… I’m not calling for people to boycott Apple, or this site or anything. Which, incidentally, would not accomplish anything even if I was! I have no pull with anyone!

I find that very rarely increased regulation and increased government control are the answer.

Please don’t misunderstand… I don’t think that people should be judged and have rights restricted based on their preferences or orientation. But even beyond that, people shouldn’t be forced to abandon their beliefs to hire someone they fundamentally disagree with. Even if you don’t agree with their reasoning, you’d have to agree that it would be infringing on their rights.

You should be able to hire writers who write articles in line with the core of the magazine. That’s the core of the issue.

If a GLBT person goes out of their way to try and get hired on at what I can only define as a “value based” company they should expect to be turned down… They simply don’t fit the requirements for the job… That’s like suing a casting director of a movie because they were looking for a tall black man to fill a roll, and they didn’t hire a short white female.

See, part of the job requirement for these companies is to put forth a certain image… And that’s something that a cross dresser simply can’t do… That is NOT saying that the cross dresser is in any way inferior, they simply fill a different roll… They serve society in a different way, not LESS but DIFFERENT.

This isn’t bigotry, it’s image, appealing to clientele, and serving a community in the way they want to serve it.

If I walked into a restaurant, and was served by a gay or lesbian person, I don’t have a problem with that, I hold that against no one… But if you’re shopping at a Christian book store, that’s a different thing all together. The owner of a Christian book store shouldn’t be forced to hire someone who doesn’t fit the image.

Photographers shouldn’t be forced to shoot gay weddings, and lesbian couples shouldn’t be able to sue a baker because they politely refuse to bake their wedding cake. That is not freedom, it’s not tolerance.

I’m not hunting down GLBT individuals, and I believe they should be left alone! There are bigots out there, they should he ashamed of themselves! People who hate another person, for any reason, should be ashamed of themselves! That’s not love… That’s not Christ like… (Since we got on the subject of Christianity.)

I am a Christian Conservative for the most part, as you already know… And you’re right, the inconsistency by many of the so-called conservatives is very disturbing.

I fully believe that this legislation would do far more harm than good. I expect tons of individuals to go apply for jobs they have no intention of getting just for the grounds to sue when they are turned down. That will happen.

Don’t think it won’t… Similar things already are.

Bryan Chaffin

Time will tell, Chester. Or not. I don’t expect the House to pass the bill. Actually, I don’t expect it to to be allowed to be put to a vote.

Chester Baker

I don’t either.

For what it’s worth, Bryan, I applaud people willing to stand up for what they believe. Even when I do disagree with them.

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