Rebecca Rosen of The Atlantic reports that Microsoft has joined with Nike and other for-profit corporations to advocate for gay marriage in Washington State:
In a week of tech industry protests about censorship, one company—Microsoft—is lending its voice to a different political cause: gay marriage.
It has joined with five other businesses (Vulcan, NIKE, RealNetworks, Group Health Cooperative, and Concur) to support bills that would legalize gay marriage in Washington state, where Microsoft is based. The letter to Governor Chris Gregoire was brief. In its entirety it reads, “We write you today to show the support of our respective companies for SB 6239 and HB 2516 recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples.”
Good for Microsoft—they saw an issue they cared about and they spoke out. But, as critics of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC keep reminding us, corporations aren’t people. Bearing that in mind, here are some questions for people who believe that corporations should not have First Amendment rights:
Do you think Microsoft should be prohibited from engaging in this sort of advocacy unless it first gets approval from its shareholders?
Do you think this sort of political advocacy is a “threat to democracy”?
Do you think the government should have the power to ban this sort of political advocacy simply because Microsoft is a corporation?
As it turns out, slogans like “corporations aren't people” aren’t very helpful when dealing with First Amendment issues, particularly if you’re sympathetic to the message being espoused. The solution, we think, is to take the text of the First Amendment at face value and conclude—as the Supreme Court did in Citizens United—that the First Amendment prohibits the government from banning political speech based on the speaker’s identity.