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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - Page updated at 01:53 PM

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CLARIFICATION: The Rev. Ken Hutcherson will not call for a national boycott against Microsoft and other companies on a radio program. Rather, he said, he will focus his attention on defeating a gay-rights bill in the Legislature before turning to a boycott.

Legislature 2006

Boycott sought over bill backing gay rights

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A pastor has called for a national boycott of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and other businesses that have come out in support of a gay civil-rights bill, saying Monday that the companies have underestimated the power of religious consumers.

The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church of Redmond — also home to Microsoft — said he would officially make the call for the boycott Thursday on a national conservative talk-radio show, "Focus on the Family."

"We're tired of sitting around thinking that morals can be ignored in our country," he said. "This is not a threat, this is a promise. Check out the past presidential election. We made the moral issue the No. 1 issue."

Last week, several companies, including Microsoft, Boeing, Hewlett Packard and Nike signed a letter urging passage of the measure, which would add "sexual orientation" to a state law that already bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors.

Microsoft's support comes a year after it was denounced for quietly dropping support for it.

Hutcherson, who has organized anti-gay-marriage rallies in Seattle and Washington, D.C., was at the middle of the Microsoft controversy last year on the gay-rights issue. He says he pressured Microsoft into dropping its support of the measure last year by threatening a boycott.

The company, which took heat from gay activists across the country, insisted it decided to take a neutral stance to focus on other issues but later came out saying it would support the measure in future years.

Asked about Hutcherson's threat Monday, Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said, "Our position is well known, as we said in our letter last week, and we stick by it."

Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said the company had no plans to withdraw its support.

"The position that we have taken is one that we do feel strongly about," he said. "It is entirely consistent with our own internal practices and policies."

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Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who has sponsored the measure for more than a decade, said he was not concerned that Hutcherson's move would have any impact on the companies' bottom line.

"The American people and citizens of Washington state aren't going to buy into his line of bigotry," he said.

Hutcherson said he has the support of several national organizations, including the Family Research Council, Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family. Several of those organizations' offices could not be reached after hours Monday.

The Rev. Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who is chairman of Faith & Freedom Network, an organization that opposes the bill, said the boycott is a signal "that we're out here, too."

"These companies should stick to their business, make their widgets," he said. "Why are they trying to engineer social policy for America?"

Hutcherson said he's not telling companies to change their own internal policies on gay rights. He just doesn't want them influencing lawmakers with their support.

The bill has been introduced — and rejected — annually for nearly 30 years in the Legislature.

The state House last year passed the bill 61-37, with six Republicans joining 55 Democrats in favor. But it lost by one vote in the Senate, where two Democrats joined 23 Republicans in defeating the bill.

The measure is thought to have a better chance of passage this year because Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, announced last week that he would switch his vote to yes.

A House committee planned a public hearing on the bill today.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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