Tim Cook’s editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post titled "Pro-discrimination 'religious freedom' laws are dangerous" is a bold underline on the new Apple. Where Steve Jobs famously wrote open letters on the evils of Flash and DRM, Tim Cook is using his bully pulpit to fight unjust and discriminatory practices in the US and abroad.
It’s not that Apple was socially unaware before Cook. Quite the contrary. Apple began offering benefits to same-sex partners in 1993 (while Jobs was in exile), resulting in a showdown with county commissioners just outside of Austin, Texas who refused to grant a nearly $1 million tax break for Apple’s planned $80 million customer support center. “I cannot in good conscience extend that benefit to them (Apple) because of the conviction I have that same-sex partners is wrong,” said commissioner Greg Boatwright at the time. The decision was overturned one week later after some arm-twisting by then governor Ann Richards. Good thing, too: in 2012, Apple announced a plan to hire another 3,600 workers under a $304 million expansion of the Austin campus. Funny how that kind of money can change a person’s political religion — a lesson certainly not lost on Cook, CEO of the world's richest company.
In 2008, Apple, under Steve Jobs, joined Google and others to come out publicly against Prop 8 — a California bill designed to define marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman. And in 2010 it started covering the extra costs that same-sex partners pay for domestic partner benefits, again following a trail that Google had blazed before it.
The difference between Apple then and Apple now is that Tim Cook’s Apple is positioned as an active, and forceful agent of social change. The US then and now is also different, putting Cook's views very much in the majority — an openly-gay Apple CEO publishing today's piece in 1993 would have done so with great risk.
Nevertheless, progress, like Apple's evolution, is incremental. Apple under Jobs was socially progressive but isolationist, reluctant to take the lead and as private as the founder himself. Under Cook it’s ostensibly open and accessible, viewing the world as a place where people should be as free from draconian laws as they are from the tyranny of boring beige boxes.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook has used the editorial pages of The Washington Post to condemn laws that allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals or other groups on the grounds of "religious freedom." Calling the legislation "something very dangerous happening in states across the country," Cook says these laws "rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."
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