Apple has officially added its hefty corporate weight to the business forces urging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto a bill legalizing discrimination against homosexuals as long as the discriminator can claim religious prejudice. Apple has a recent track record of being politically active in the gay rights arena, both under the late Steve Jobs and under current CEO Tim Cook, a gay man.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 1062, was passed by the Arizona legislature last week. It allows business owners who have strong religious views against homosexuality to deny service to gays and lesbians. It was pushed through by the Center for Arizona Policy and Republican law makers. Its supporters claim that it's important to protect religious liberty by allowing religious people to discriminate against a class of people they don't like.
Arizona republican Governor Jan Brewer has not signed the bill, and she vetoed a similar bill in 2013. It is not yet clear how she intends to handle this bill, but she has a total of five business days to either sign it or veto it under Arizona law.
Lining up against the bill are Democrats and even some Republican lawmakers who signed the bill. Many business groups have also come out against the bill, fearing that it will further tarnish Arizona's reputation just when the state is making big strides in attracting new businesses.
That includes Apple, which bought a major (then-empty) manufacturing facility in Arizona. Apple is using the space in part to locate a huge synthetic sapphire operation run by partner GT Advanced, and Apple has invested at least a billion dollars in the project so far.
Which means that Apple has a legitimate voice in the topic of discrimination against homosexuals in Arizona, as the company worries about discrimination against its own employees, including a visiting Tim Cook. Apple has a strong track record of fighting gay discrimination under the late Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook, including donating money to a group fighting the now-dead Prop. 8 in California.
More recently, Tim Cook urged the U.S. Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal. He also used the opportunity to speak on the importance of equal rights when he was given the Lifetime achievement Award by Alabama's auburn University, his alma mater.
According to the Associated Press, an Apple spokesperson confirmed that Apple had "reached out" to Governor Brewer to urge her to veto this bill.
Personally, as an Apple shareholder (my holding is insignificant by every measure), I'd love to see Apple stand up and say that it would spend another billion dollars to pull out of Arizona if this law gets signed, and that it will do the same if the legislature goes through this same farce again.
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