Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has called on US legislators to rethink their support of so-called religious freedom laws, which enshrine the ability of individuals to breach nondiscrimination laws if the laws go against personal religious beliefs.
Such laws have been passed in 20 US states, most recently Indiana, and are widely seen to be specifically aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.
Cook, who spoke publicly for the first time about being gay in October, writes that the laws, as well as more explicitly discriminatory bills elsewhere, “rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear”.
In an editorial in the Washington Post, he continues that “They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.
“America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation – wherever it emerges.”
Under Cook, who became chief executive of the firm in 2011, Apple has become a far more active campaigner on social issues. Shortly after becoming leader, Cook instituted the company’s first charitable gift-matching programme (Famously, Steve Jobs, the company’s co-founder and chief executive from 1996 until his death in 2011, had given the company’s charitable efforts a low priority), while the company launched an advert supporting Pride last July.
In a Bloomberg Businessweek article, in which he discussed his sexuality for the first time, Cook expressed his pride at Apple’s record. “We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community,” a similar bill to the one recently passed in Indiana.
In the Washington Post editorial, Cook says that the company’s message, “to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.”
“This isn’t a political issue,” he concluded. “It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.”
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th March 2015 10.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010