Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Search Of: Non-Political Tech Companies

As I write this, I'm on my Mac at home, posting to a Google hosted blog. Ugh.

Google recently announced their position against California's Proposition 8:

As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay -- we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on.

However, while there are many objections to this proposition -- further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text -- it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 -- we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.


Apple has done the same:

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.



I will leave writing a post with a detailed explanation of my position on "gay marriage" for a later date, but in short I'm in favor of protecting marriage per it's historical, traditional, Judeo-Christian definition. I hold this view because my Christian faith unambiguously informs me of the proper definition of marriage, as well as for purely secular/pragmatic reasons.

But, what concerns me even more than the fact that Apple and Google took this position in favor of gay marriage is the fact they took a position at all.

Having giant corporations put huge sums of cash behind social-issue political causes gives me pause. This isn't an issue that affects how well Google can provide search or Apple can make iPhones. Google and Apple, in my opinion, have no business injecting themselves into this issue.

It would take 10,000 individuals giving $20 to pro-Position 8 organizations to offset what Google and Apple did. Do we really want tech companies crowding out the advocacy of thousands of individuals?


I'm about to find out exactly how entrenched I am in Apple and Google technology. Anyone have any suggestions for a search engine from a company that doesn't stick it's nose where it doesn't politically belong? Same for an alternative place to easily move this blog to.

And, Apple: I was planning on buying an iPhone in January with money from an expected bonus from my employer. That's no longer going to happen.


I think it's worth pointing out that unlike Google and Apple, McCain and Obama are both in favor of the traditional, opposite-sex, definition of marriage. Well, sort of for Obama, who's contradicted himself on the issue, so I'm not sure exactly what to think. He said at the Saddleback debate that marriage was just between a man and woman, and told gay rights groups he only favored civil unions, but now it seems he's coming out in favor Proposition 8? (Huh? Is this a huge flip-flop or just an extremely nuanced position he holds? Or, he's just been lying again?)

At least Rick Warren is holding the line. As apparently are these two bloggers who are also responding to Google's misplaced advocacy.


Finally, let me clear up some of the absolute wrongness from Google's announcement:


... there are many objections to this proposition -- further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text


This is absolute FUD. Proposition 8 would change things back to how Californians voted for them to be in 2000. There is zero "encroachment". Furthermore, it's not ambiguously written. It is wored identically to the proposition approved in California in 2000 by nearly 2/3 of California voters: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” How is that "ambiguous"?!


... it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8.


Proposition 8 is neither "chilling" nor "discriminatory." Even should Proposition 8 pass, California law would continue to be that “domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits” as married individuals. The only thing that would change is the legal definition of "marriage."


While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality.


This is absolute bull. If Google "respected" beliefs on "both sides", they'd keep themselves out of the debate. You can't respect the pro-Proposition-8 viewpoint while simultaneously donating $100,000 to defeat the proposition.

And, again, should the proposition pass, domestic partners would retain "equality" under the law to married individuals.


We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 -- we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.


The proposition does NOT eliminate anyone's fundamental rights. I don't think heterosexuals even have a "fundamental right" to have their marriage be recognized by the government. Governments happen to, but it's not because it's a "right." Furthermore, should you allow the argument that everyone has "rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love" - to be logically consistent, you'd need to allow pedophiles the right to marry kids they love and/or immediate family members to marry each other should they be "in love". I know that sounds over the top, but I challenge anyone who disagrees to show me how that's not the logical extension of that argument.


Google making such a FUD-filled, and, frankly, dishonest, statement about Proposition 8 really turns me off to the Google brand. So much for "don't be evil."

6 comments:

Jesurgislac said...

I'm in favor of protecting marriage per it's historical, traditional, Judeo-Christian definition.

You can't "protect marriage" by banning couples from getting married. You are attacking marriage, not protecting it.

I hold this view because my Christian faith unambiguously informs me of the proper definition of marriage

So you're against freedom of religion, too?

as well as for purely secular/pragmatic reasons.

Happy to let you know Stanley Kurtz is talking complete nonsense.

Maddog said...

Good to see someone is taking a stand on Google's deceptive spin. A "fundamental right to marry someone you love" is logical garbage. Marriage was never as simple as that. If it were, the pedophile, incestuous, polyamorous, and bestial marriages should be legal too (what if someone really loves his dog?). Marriage was created to create families, which is the only real place where children can be properly raised and nurtured in large numbers. Without heterosexual unions and the families the make, the human race would have died out a long time ago.

Art said...

You do know that for the vast majority of those "ten thousand years" of marriage in the vast majority of the cultures that had marriage, polygamy was the norm, right? The majority of men had only one wife, but they saw this as the result of only being able to *afford* one wife, not because of an undying commitment to love and respect one woman as a partner.

Wives were like cars; you got as many as you could afford. The distinction between a full wife (who acquired some legal rights from being married to you) and a concubine (who was basically purchased for sex and housework) was also incredibly common during those "ten thousand years".

The claim that "Biblical" marriage is some kind of ideal that has existed unchanged and static for ten thousand years and *exactly matches* our modern "one-man-one-woman true-love" ideal is as historically ignorant as you can get. Even just skimming through the Bible itself disproves it. (*How* many wives did Solomon have, again?)

Art said...

Also, I fail to see how Google and Apple blowing big bucks on political endorsements is non-kosher but the large number of wealthy small businesses pushing Prop 8 is okay, as are the Mormon Church, Catholic Church and megachurches like Saddleback, which are all multimillion-dollar concerns that do a great job of nullifying the $50 donations of ordinary unaffiliated anti-Prop 8 schmucks like me.

This is really just a matter of perspective. It was really controversial for businesses to come out against anti-miscegenation and Jim Crow laws back in the '60s, too, and that stance was seen as inappropriately "political", but is anyone going to go back now and say that companies were out of line for opposing segregation?

kazoolist said...

@jesurgislac:

You can't "protect marriage" by banning couples from getting married. You are attacking marriage, not protecting it.

Incorrect. Homosexual marriage weakens the institution. In countries that have allowed gays to marry cohabitation and birth to non-married parents has become the norm, because (by it's extended definition) marriage matters less.

So you're against freedom of religion, too?

Hardly. This is an ignorant twist of Christian teaching. Christianity, by it's nature requires a free choice of faith to be made, necessitating freedom of religion.

Happy to let you know Stanley Kurtz is talking complete nonsense.

Yeah, I can play that game too. Let me try a reverse ad-hominem: Stanley Kurtz is the smartest man alive! I don't actually believe that, but in making that statement, just like with you making yours, you've done absolutely nothing to address Kurtz's factual claims.


@art

Your first argument is that the definition of Biblical marriage has changed over the years. It has NOT. It's true Solomon had many wives, but just because a king (even one of the better of Israel's kings) had many wives does not imply God's seal of approval. God's intention for marriage was clearly established in The Garden, with one man and one woman.

In my reference to Jesus's teaching on marriage in Mark, Jesus is actually reaching all the way back to Genesis 2:24.

God has shown permissiveness about not reaching his ideal. For instance he allowed the Law of Moses to permit divorce. This does not indicate, however, that God has a very real standard, and that standard is somehow not worth fighting for to preserve.

I'll grant that the specifics of marriage have changed over the centuries, but the fundamental Biblical teaching on marriage is that it is strictly between one man and one woman, and that fundamental definition has, in fact, been at the core of the norm for marriage for a very long time.

Furthermore, even if you could make the case that the Bible somehow outright supports polygammy, you haven't reached the threshold that the Bible's teaching on marriage condones homosexual marriage. Marriage, being a sexual relationship, can not be something to be understood to include homosexual couples, as the sexual acts they would engage in as part of the relationship are clearly labeled as sinful in both the New and Old Testaments.

As to why it's OK for the Mormon church or rich families to "blow money" on this issue but NOT Apple or Google, the reason is simply that Google and Apple should not see themselves as having any skin in this game. It doesn't affect what they do. At all.

The Mormon church does have a vested interest, as do interested citizens. I have no problem with a rich family spending loads of money to influence people to vote for or against Proposition 8 - but it's no business of tech companies who should see their role as providing the best products and services they can and maximizing shareholder returns - NOT influencing social policy.

And, for the record, even if Google and Apple were supporting Proposition 8, I'd still have a problem with it. There do appear to be some small businesses supporting Proposition 8. I'll aim to withhold my business from them as well.

Maddog said...

Good answers Kazoolist.

The errors of past generations is something we should learn from, NOT emulate. The ideal of marriage as between a man and a woman was established even way before polygamy, given the Biblical witness. Even if one doesn't accept the Bible as inspired, there is still the fact that as societies' understanding of human relationships grew, they came to reject polygamy. Even many Muslims do not practice it despite the fact that males are allowed to do so in their religion. That is obviously because they see the injustice and the internal damage it can do to families.

I have also noticed that for all the hateful propaganda flung about by the proponents of same-sex marriage, they are still unable to refute the argument presented against it: that the logic used to justify same0-sex marriages is the same logic that will be used to justify all sorts of other "marriages". If we accept that wrong logic, then we set the stage for rendering marriage meaningless.