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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 26, 2011 at 6:25 AM

Microsoft, other businesses put in middle of e-commerce gay-rights culture war

Corrected version

Gay-rights advocates — including a Seattle man who started the effort — have gotten some of the world’s largest businesses, including Microsoft and Apple, to pull out of an e-commerce relationship with a marketer that indirectly gave money to conservative Christian groups that see homosexual behavior as a threat to the morality that holds society together.

Now the marketer and the Christian groups are fighting back, saying that the companies that have dropped the marketer were misled and that the charities are being slandered for their religious beliefs, according to a story published Sunday in The New York Times.

The Internet marketer — Charity Giveback Group (or CGBG) — gets a commission from the retailers for each online customer it gives them. Retailers giving a commission to websites that refer customers to them is not an unusual arrangement is the world of e-commerce. With CGBG, a share of the commission that retailers pay is donated to a Christian charity of the buyer’s choice, from a list that includes conservative evangelical groups such as Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, according to The New York Times.

In July, Stuart Wilber, a 73-year-old gay man in Seattle, went to Change.org to start a petition asking Microsoft to end its association with what he referred to as groups that support discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, including organizations like Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. (The SPLC says it designated the Family Research Council as a hate group, not because of its beliefs, but because it has spread falsehoods that demonize gays and lesbians, including that gay men are more prone to pedophilia.) Within hours, more than 500 people had signed on, and Microsoft had quietly dropped out of the donation plan, The New York Times reported.

The paper also said Microsoft — as well as some other companies that dropped their relationship with CGBG — has never spoken publicly about it. We have a request in to Microsoft to see if they will comment and we will update this post if they do. [Update 8:25 a.m.: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is not commenting at this time.]

Over the summer, other gay rights activists took up the cause, getting about 100 companies including Apple, Macy’s and Barney’s New York to cease their affiliate marketing program with CGBG.

That’s put the giant retailers in the middle of a culture war.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a paid CGBG consultant, characterized the efforts as “economic terrorism” in a New York Times interview. “To try to destroy a business because you don’t like some of the customers is, to me, unbelievably un-American,” he said.

The companies have since become the targets of countercampaigns from the Christian groups who say they are being discriminated against because of their faith, according to The New York Times, which adds that a few companies that briefly left the network have been persuaded to rejoin, including Delta, PetSmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Wal-Mart.

Information in this post, originally published Sept. 26, 2011, was corrected later that day. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Stuart Wilber characterized certain organizations as “hate groups.” It was the Southern Poverty Law Center that designated certain organizations as hate groups; Wilber was referring to those designations.

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