Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has written an op-ed column for the Washington Post explaining why he regards so-called ‘religious freedom’ laws, and their ability to allow businesses to discriminate, as dangerous.
Cook is speaking out just days after one such law was passed in Indiana.
Since that state’s Governor, Mike Spence, signed off the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a range of organizations – including businesses, colleges and advocacy groups – have spoken out against the legislation.
San Francisco became the first city to boycott Indiana after the law was passed, with San Fran mayor, Ed Lee saying on Thursday that the city will not use taxpayer money to fund any city employees’ trips to the Midwestern state.
Cook says in his piece that the legislation passed in Indiana, and a similar law in Arkansas, will allow individuals to, ‘cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.’
He goes on to point out that while he considers the law in Indiana dangerous, some others are even more ‘transparent in their effort to discriminate’, such as proposed legislation in Texas that would, ‘strip the salaries and pensions of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.’
‘These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear,’ he says. ‘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 recognized 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.’
Cook goes on to say that he has great respect for religion freedom, saying that he was baptized in a Baptist church as a child and remembers growing up in South in the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Discrimination isn’t something that’s easy to oppose. It doesn’t always stare you in the face. It moves in the shadows. And sometimes it shrouds itself within the very laws meant to protect us.’
He goes on to say that men and women died defending to protect the US’s founding principles of freedom and equality, and that such ideals must be protected.
‘The days of segregation and discrimination marked by “Whites Only” signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms must remain deep in our past. We must never return to any semblance of that time. America must be a land of opportunity for everyone.’
He ends the moving column by saying that people must be brave in speaking out against the wave of legislation currently being proposed in so many states: ‘This isn’t a political issue. 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.’
Cook came out as gay in October 2013. Previous to that, he was reticent to talk about his personal life but has increasingly spoken out on a wide range of issues over recent months.
In December, it was reported that he had made a ‘generous’ personal donation to Human Rights Campaign’s campaign to advance LGBTI rights in the US southern states of Arkansas, Mississippi and his own native Alabama.
Last week, he gave an in-depth interview to Fortune magazine, revealing how he planned to give away the bulk of his personal fortune before his death, and how he felt unprepared for the personal scrutiny that he came under when he took over from Steve Jobs as the head of Apple.
Apple itself is going from strength to strength. The most profitable company in the world, in February it was valued at $744billion, making it twice as big as the world’s second largest company, ExxonMobil. Some commentators have speculated that it could be worth $1trillion before the end of the year.