Over the past 20 years I've bought five Apple computers and two iPods. I've never considered switching to a PC, always maintaining that I was going to stick with Apple right down to its last percentage of market share.
So I was thrilled last week to read that Apple donated $100,000 to the effort to fight Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that would overturn a recent state Supreme Court decision paving the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry. It's always nice when a company you like does something that makes you feel proud rather than ashamed.
Here's the statement that the company posted on its Web site on Friday:
"Apple is publicly opposing Proposition 8 and making a donation of $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign. Apple was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees’ same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person’s fundamental rights — including the right to marry — should not be affected by their sexual orientation. Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8."
Well, apparently not every Apple customer is as pleased as I am. I first read about the donation on a Web site called AppleInsider. Some of the negative comments shocked me. While many people were supportive, there was an incredible amount of bigotry, with the most disgusting, hateful remarks directed toward gay people. Some people vowed that they would never purchase another Apple product.
Wait a minute, these are my fellow Apple users? I realize now that I was naive, but I always thought of Apple users as a bunch of fair-minded creative types, banding together in an overwhelmingly Windows-dominated world, people who would never think of denying anyone their civil rights. Sadly, was I ever wrong about that one.
But some comments took a different tack. They questioned whether donating money to the fight against Proposition 8 was a legitimate action for a public company to take, whether it was in the best interest of shareholders. Some argued that it was improper for Apple to take sides in a political issue because it could harm the company's bottom line.
I would argue that Apple is looking out for the best interests of its shareholders in making this donation. If I were a shareholder - and I may well be in what's left of my 401(k) plan - I'd want the company to do whatever it could to attract the most talented, most diverse group of employees - and treat them equally.
A company where everyone's rights are respected and everyone is invited to the table - regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, - is simply a better company and it's going to attract better workers. If you shut off one segment of the population, you run the risk of losing some talented, creative people. And a company like the Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, which relies on continued innovation to be successful, should be drawing from as wide a pool as possible.
To me, offering equal benefits to employees' same-sex partners and fighting a ballot measure that would deny those employees their civil rights are two strands of the commitment to diversity and equality. It's a commitment that most American companies have made. It tells potential employees - and customers - that everyone is welcome and respected.
Apple is absolutely correct - this is a civil rights issue, just as the fight for equal rights for African-Americans was a civil rights issue. It's not about politics or religion or raising children. It has nothing to do with your personal feelings about gay people any more than the earlier struggle for civil rights had anything to do with your personal feelings about black people.
Standing up for equality is simply the right thing to do, the American thing to do and, I would argue, it's part of being a good corporate citizen.