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Apple and Steve Jobs have long been champions for Gay Rights

Mar 01, 20137 mins
AppleData CenterLegal

A look back at how Apple and Steve Jobs have long been champions for Gay Rights.

Apple, along with a slew of other companies, recently leant its support to a recent filing on gay marriage that will soon be presented before the U.S. Supreme Court as the nation’s nine justices prepare to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.

Originally put on the ballot in 2008, Proposition 8 was an initiative which sought to define marriage in California as existing exclusively between a man and a woman.

Notably, Apple is joining forces with over 60 companies all seeking to have California’s Prop 8 deemed unconstitutional. Some of the other companies include Facebook, Intel, Nike, Xerox, Oracle, Qualcomm, eBay, and Zynga.

“No matter how welcoming the corporate culture, it cannot overcome the societal stigma institutionalized by Proposition 8 and similar laws,” the companies will argue.

Apple also went so far as to issue a statement to All Things D, noting that “Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we hope the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional.”

With the Supreme Court set to begin hearing arguments on the issue on March 26, it’s perhaps a good time to look back at how Apple and Steve Jobs have long been champions of equal rights for gays.

First off, it’s worth noting that when Proposition 8 was first put on the California ballot back in 2008, Apple donated $100,000 to fight it.

In a statement posted on its website at the time, Apple noted:

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, of course, wasn’t the only Silicon Valley entity to fight against Prop 8. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin reportedly donated $140,000 for the cause back in 2008, with Brin explaining at the time:

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.

Prop 8 aside, here are some other examples of Apple sticking up for Gay rights.

Apple kicks hateful apps to the curb

In February 2011, a Christian group called Exodus International released an app on the iTunes App Store called “Gay Cure.” As the name implies, the app was meant to “helping homosexual strugglers.” And if you take a look at the Exodus International website, they appear to be an organization oddly obsessed with “curing” homosexual behavior.

The app somehow made it past Apple’s review process, with a 4+ rating no less. About a month later, however, Apple removed the app.

Notably, this wasn’t the first time Apple removed an app for its stance on homosexuality. In November 2010 Apple removed an app called the “Manhattan Declaration” which advocated the “dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Explaining its decision to remove the app, an Apple spokesman at the time said that it was removed “because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”

Apple has a gay-friendly reputation and corporate culture

In a 2008 survey conducted by PlanetOut, nearly 40% of gay and lesbian respondents indicated that they strongly consider Apple to be gay-friendly. Amongst all brands, Apple came in second, ceding the top spot to the Bravo TV station.

And for those keeping track at home, Samsung in the survey was at the bottom of the heap, netting only a 4% favorable response from respondents.

And with the release of iOS 6, Apple included emoticons depicting gay and lesbian couples holding hands. Previous versions only had heterosexual couples.

What’s more, the Human Rights Campaign Buyer’s Guide in 2012 gave Apple a perfect score with respect to its treatment of LGBT employees and overall workplace equality. And again, Apple isn’t alone here – a number of other prominent tech companies also received a perfect score, including AT&T, CISCO, Dell, Microsoft, Google, and Nokia.

Apple won’t compromise on equal health benefits

In the early 90’s, Apple was set to build a huge $80 million office complex in Round Rock, Texas. A tax break which was originally slated for Apple was subsequently taken away after Williamson County expressed disapproval of Apple’s equal rights policy for gays. At the time, residents in the community even took to wearing pins which read, “Just Say, No! An Apple today will take family values away.” 

Apple officials said [..] that as a matter of both principle and economics the company would not build on the 128-acre site in Williamson County unless the tax break is restored, and Gov. Ann W. Richards was left pleading with the company to look at other sites in Texas. Apple officials said that while they would entertain lobbying by Texas officials for other sites, they also planned to look outside the state.

Williamson County, however, soon changed their tune amidst much controversy.

Steve Jobs stands up for gay rights

But one of the more touching examples of Apple’s support for gay rights involves Steve Jobs himself.

When Steve Jobs passed away, former NeXT and Apple employee Ronald Hayden wrote a post detailing his first experience with Jobs back in the 1980s.

Joining NeXT, Hayden was excited to work on pioneering technology but was dismayed to find out that the company’s domestic partner insurance coverage only applied to straight couples. Hayden makes a point of noting that this was the result of NeXT’s insurance company “scaring them out of it with of it with doom-saying projections of how their costs would quintuple or some such nonsense.”

Hayden, however, really needed the insurance coverage and told the folks at NeXT he would unfortunately have to quit and go back to work at Oracle.

Here’s how Hayden described what happened next:

“Hold on,” the head of HR said, “Let me see what I can do.”

He worked with Steve, and they contacted the insurance company. After a couple of bizarre weeks where I attended meetings all day filled with amazing people and amazing technology, knowing that at any minute I would have to leave, HR informed me that they’d talked the insurance company into providing special coverage. Just for me. It was that important to NeXT and to Steve that they keep a nobody first-line manager they had just hired.

A couple of months later they turned that into coverage for all gay employees at NeXT.

I sent email to Steve, thanking him for this strike for human rights.

He responded, “Keep those suggestions coming!”

As if I had come up with a way to save money on paper cups.

And that was the beginning of almost 20 years of working for Steve.

Of course, now, providing the same type of health benefits for same-sex couples still requires negotiation with insurance companies.

Lastly, Apple employees in 2011 participated in the It Gets Better project which aims to give troubled teens hope that their lives will, in fact, get better. The video below was Apple’s addition to the project which cumulatively generated thousands of contributions from celebrities, corporations, and individuals across the globe.

The video below features a number of nameless Apple employees, but does include a prominent appearance by Randy Ubilos, Apple’s head of video applications who often takes the state to introduce the latest version of iMovie or Final Cut Pro. 

Of course, Apple is hardly alone in its support of gay rights. Other tech giants such as Google, Adobe, Facebook, and Microsoft have long been ardent supporters as well.

yoni heisler

Yoni Heisler is a technology writer and Mac nerd who's been using Apple products for well over 21 years. He actively covers a wide variety of Apple topics, from legal news and rumors to current events and even Apple related comedy and history. Got an idea, comment or suggestions? You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @EdibleApple where he's also a part-time contributor.

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