Mike Isaac and John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

For Apple, Fighting DOMA and Prop. 8 Is More Than Business as Usual

apple-gayThis week, nearly 300 major corporations filed a joint brief coming out in support of gay marriage, against the backdrop of a long-standing Supreme Court battle over equal rights issues. For the purposes of the filing, the companies’ main argument was from a business perspective.

“Success depends on the talent, morale and motivation of the workforce for private and public employers alike,” the document states.

But for at least one big tech company, the issue goes far beyond business strategy.

“DOMA hurts legally married same-sex couples and prevents companies from treating all employees as equals,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told AllThingsD. “Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we hope the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional.”

Indeed, Apple was one of the companies, along with other heavy-hitting tech firms like Facebook, Twitter, Cisco, Intel and Qualcomm, included in the business-centric effort, jointly filing an amicus brief that combats legislation like Proposition 8 and DOMA.

But the typically press-averse Apple’s willingness to comment on the matter, beyond the company’s inclusion in the joint filing, is indicative of Apple’s view of human rights in a broader sense, rather than just marriage equality issues viewed through an economic lens.

Apple has a past of combating issues like Prop 8 in particular. In 2008, the company made another rare statement of opposition against the initiative when it was first on the table and donated $100,000 to the “No on 8” campaign.

“Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8,” the company stated at the time.

Apple has also long offered the same health benefits for same-sex couples as those opposite-sex couples enjoy, including health insurance with comparable premiums and beneficiary rights. This sort of coverage requires negotiation with insurers to get it done, which is no easy feat.

Not to mention it can involve fighting with local, potentially hostile governments as a result of said coverage. As far back as the early ’90s, Apple was involved in a court case levied against the company by a county in Texas. Hoping to spur the local economy by attracting tech companies, Williamson County offered tax breaks that Apple readily accepted and set up shop. But county officials were willing to turn down the more than 1,500 tech jobs Apple would have brought to the region after learning of Apple’s policy of offering comprehensive health care benefits to homosexual couples. (Williamson County officials eventually backed down, and Apple emerged the victor.)

To be sure, Apple isn’t the only company outspoken on gay rights and issues of equality inside the workplace. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have taken largely progressive stances on health benefits offered to prospective employees, including fully inclusive packages for transgender employees, who often face hardships when it comes tp insurance coverage issues.

But while it’s great to see companies recognizing same-sex marriage for any reason, it’s even better that a few, even the normally quiet ones, are being vocal about the principles involved.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik