NEW YORK (Dow Jones) - The Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), at the forefront of corporate gay rights for decades, is coming under fire from gay rights groups, politicians and its own employees for withdrawing its support for a Washington state bill that would have barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the New York Times reported in its Friday editions.
Many of the critics accused the company of bowing to pressure from a prominent evangelical church in Redmond, Wash., located a few blocks from Microsoft's sprawling headquarters, the report said.
The bill, or similar versions of it, has been introduced repeatedly over three decades; it failed by one vote Thursday in the State Senate. Gay rights advocates denounced Microsoft, which had supported the bill for the last two years, for abandoning their cause, the report said.
Microsoft officials denied any connection between their decision not to endorse the bill and the church's opposition, although they acknowledged meeting twice with the church minister, Ken Hutcherson, the Times reported.
Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, who has organized several rallies opposing same-sex marriage here and in Washington, D.C., said he threatened in those meetings to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products, the report said.
After that, "they backed off," the pastor said Thursday in a telephone interview, the Times reported. "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about," he said, the report said. Dow Jones Newswires 04-22-05 0443ET Copyright (C) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.