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Microsoft is among several technology companies that voiced support this week for bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

The company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, explained Microsoft’s endorsement of the legislation in a blog post this week, saying it reflects the company’s principles of inclusiveness, and noting that it would be “good for our business and good for the state’s economy.”

As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families. Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent. Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbors. Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent.

Issues of gay rights have caused controversy for Microsoft in the past, going back to 2005, when the company was singled out for withdrawing its support for gay-rights legislation that was then pending in the state, allegedly under pressure from conservative pastor Ken Hutcherson.

The company denied at the time that Hutcherson played a role in its decision, and ultimately pledged to support similar legislation in the future. Hutcherson later attempted to organize a boycott against the company over similar issues.

This week, others joining with Microsoft in supporting the same-sex marriage legislation were Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen’s investment company.

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