For San Francisco's 44th annual Gay Pride parade on June 29th, 2014, more than 5,000 Apple employees and family members descended on the city to march with the company in support of the LGBT community.
Employees were given special t-shirts for the event, and even Apple CEO Tim Cook attended, taking numerous photos with Apple employees and fans, many of which were posted to Twitter.
In addition to Apple, a number of other large companies participated in the parade, including Anheuser Busch, Airbnb, Virgin America, Kaiser Permanente, Whole Foods, Bank of America, Facebook, Burger King, Netflix, Clear Channel, Intel, Google, Macy's, Tesla, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Coca-Cola, and many more.
Apple has a long history of LGBT inclusion, having offered healthcare and other benefits to domestic partners for many years, plus banning internal discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.. More recently, Cook wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, urging Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would have prohibited most civilian, nonreligious employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for the purposes of hiring or other employment practices.
In the piece, Cook said that if workers "cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves," noting that society and employers are then denied "the full benefit of those individuals' talents."
Up until now, Apple as a corporation has mostly kept quiet on cultural issues, aside from participation in events like the Gay Pride parade and HR protections. But last night, Apple made a larger statement of inclusion when it posted a video to its YouTube channel (see the video below), showing some of the company's preparations for the parade and how thousands of employees and their families marched in matching Apple Pride t-shirts.
Though notably missing from Apple.com, the company's corporate website (where it has a large section on Environmental Responsibility), the move nonetheless has Apple commenting as a corporation on LGBT issues rather than merely Apple employees sharing more personal sentiments.
The move could draw fire from some anti-LGBT groups that target corporations who publicly make gay-friendly statements, while shareholders could express concern about the (minimal) costs associated with the parade — something that has happened in the past with regards to Apple's spending on environmental issues.
However, Tim Cook believes that Apple, with its $150 billion war chest and many billions of dollars in yearly profits, is in the perfect position to push society forward and to act as an example for other companies — and for this, I commend him.
In a speech at Auburn University, Cook — who was said to be gay in a recent panel on CNBC — noted that Apple "deeply believed in advancing humanity through its products and through the equality of all its employees," going so far as to reveal that, in the past, he has "experienced many types of discrimination, and all of them were rooted in the fear of people who were different from the majority."
Some will say that Apple and Cook shouldn't get involved in cultural wars. Personally, I think that's silly, and it appears that Tim Cook agrees. Apple's cash pile and profits should buy a lot of leeway from skeptical shareholders, but it shouldn't matter. Not when it's the right thing to do.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.