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Microsoft, Amazon, other tech giants join fight over transgender initiative

businesslogoMicrosoft, Amazon, Google, Adobe and Facebook are among a group of more than 150 large companies opposing a statewide initiative that seeks to limit transgender people’s access to locker rooms and bathrooms.

The Washington Businesses Won’t Discriminate coalition launched Friday night at an event hosted by Amazon with guests like Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Vicci Martinez, a finalist on The Voice.

The initiative would make public school bathrooms and locker rooms only available to “biologically male or female individuals regardless of their gender identity and limit state and local regulations governing gender-identity discrimination,” according to a summary of the measure. It would also allow lawsuits against schools that let people use facilities based on gender identity.

Just Want Privacy, the pro I-1515 campaign, has until July 8 to turn in 246,372 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, but it is shooting for 300,000 signatures, according to its website.

Businesses worry that the initiative could lead to the same kind of backlash that has resulted from a similar law passed in North Carolina. PayPal recently cancelled plans to expand its presence there, citing the discriminatory nature of House Bill 2.

The business coalition also argues that the initiative could hurt businesses’ efforts to recruit top talent to Washington and open public schools to costly lawsuits.

Big tech companies’ participation in the coalition is another sign of their greater impact on the issues. Amazon has long been accused of not taking stances on big issues, but that has changed over the last few years. In 2012, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave $2.5 million to a referendum to uphold rights of same-sex couples to marry.

Microsoft — which has dedicated resource groups for women, racial minorities, LGBT people and parents — has worked to broaden its products’ appeal and make its workplace friendly to people from a variety of backgrounds. It has announced communities for like-minded gamers that are intended to serve as online safe spaces, and earlier this month at the E3 conference Xbox head Phil Spencer announced more details behind its Gaming for Everyone effort. Spencer wrote:

While we have a lot of work ahead of us, I’m incredibly excited about what the future holds as we put all of our products through the lens of reflecting the diversity in our audience and inclusion, support and choice for all gamers. I encourage all of our partners and fans to join us on this journey.
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