Microsoft Defends Right to be a Bigot

Breaking news on Twitter today concerns this story from the Lesbian & Gay Foundation about a woman who was banned from Xbox Live because other players found the fact that she was an out lesbian “offensive”.

We hear a lot of whining these days from right wing and religious bigots about how their right to hate other people is infringed by human rights legislation. Microsoft appears to have taken this to heart. Their concern was not whether it is right to discriminate against someone for being a lesbian, but simply how many people wanted to complain about not wanting to have to play games with one.

Obviously Microsoft is a private company, and I don’t think that there are any US laws requiring it to provide services to lesbians if it doesn’t want to. On the other hand, I’m sure that it sells a lot of products to LGBT people. I suspect a certain amount of letter writing might go on.

Hat tip to John Couthart for the image link below.

Be a lesbian - but not on Xbox Live

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11 Responses to Microsoft Defends Right to be a Bigot

  1. Well it helps me a tiny bit with my present angst about whether to buy an iMac for my company.

    I still don’t buy Heinz products after they caved in to the religious right wing.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I am wondering what this does for Microsoft’s 100% rating on the HRC corporate index.

  3. SMD says:

    Microsoft can spin this all they want: they’re violating the rights of another based on sexual orientation. It’s illegal and they could be potentially sued because of it for a hell of a lot of money.

    First off, if you don’t want to play with a lesbian or have your kids play with one, then don’t get on Xbox Live and don’t let them outside. I could really care less if you hate them, that doesn’t give you the right to prevent them from enjoying the same pleasures as you. Sexual orientation has been a privileged position for too long and it’s about time someone stood up to this crap and changed things. Hopefully this woman sues.

  4. Cheryl says:

    I’m hoping someone from the US can comment on the legality. From what I know I don’t think it is a federal offense. It may be an offense in Washington State, but Microsoft have proved very good at getting all of the anti-trust cases against them heard in friendly jurisdictions.

    Actually I’m not even sure if it would be illegal in the UK. Christine?

  5. Twilight says:

    I’ll be looking up laws – but the oddest part of this is how very good MS is about the LGBT agenda to it’s *employees – they’ve always been good there too. This is just odd…

    More later ;>

  6. The MS excuse that they restrict all mention of sexual orientation misses the point completely. Gay people–particularly young ones–have a specific reason to assert their identity. It’s like the old canard about “Why are there no Straight Pride marches?”

  7. Twilight says:

    So – several parts to this (as I suspected…)

    What I know so far:
    Xbox’s TOS specifically says that they do not allow “sexual innuendo” within gamertags – and they would ban “StraightGamer” or “HeteroGamer” as fast as “GayGamer” or ‘GayerGamer”

    (ok – so they have to recognize the tag as sexual innuendo – you can bet there will be loads of folks trying to beat that system in the next few days ;>)

    The Gaywood thing is a different problem – the TOS specifically asks users *not* to use real name as gamertag (probably to protect kids) – now they likely noticed it *because* of the whole “sexual innuendo” thing – and “disallowing it” goes to that – which is a problem.

    An amusing note: A couple of older games, using Gay the way it was used when I was a kid (yes, I am that old), were confused when what they thought was “happy” was being banned.

    The TOS says this (in part):
    Stephen Toulouse said: “[a member may not] Create a Gamer-tag or use text in other profile fields that may offend other members. This includes comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate any of the following: profane words/phrases, sexually explicit language, sexual innuendo, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities.

    I have to wonder if this is less about *being* gay than announcing one’s preference – if they won’t allow *any* innuendo (assuming they recognize it), and it’s applied consistently, then the rule isn’t targeted and this is a tempest in a teapot. It’s a big if – I don’t know how consistently it’s applied – but worded the way it is, the TOS is not only legal, it’s generally considered “liberal” over here. How it’s applied is what this really boils down to, in terms of legalities…

  8. Twilight says:

    #6John – problem is, if they apply the rule inconsistently, they leave themselves open to lawsuits. I haven’t found the laws that regulate what they’re allowed to do (it’s a HUGE layer of laws between “publically traded company” “internet laws” “free speech laws” and so on), but applying one’s rules inconsistently is a hallmark for lawsuits here.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Twilight:

    Many thanks for the legal run-down, which was very helpful.

    I think John’s point is that these so-called rules are actually applied inconsistently. Heterosexual people advertise their sexual orientation in all sorts of ways all of the time, but if gay people so much as mention their sexuality they get slapped down. For example, how many times have you seen a straight couple hugging, holding hands or kissing in public? Gay couples who so the same are inviting trouble.

    So banning the use of words like “straight” and “heterosexual” is weaseling. To apply such rules consistently you’d have to ban all expressions of sexuality. Even a casual expression of admiration for someone’s appearance is potentially advertising your sexual orientation.

  10. Cheryl: that was my point exactly.

    Stephen Toulouse from MS says this:

    re: the consumerist story. Expression of any sexual orientation (straight or gay or otherswise) is not allowed in gamertags. However we’ve heard from the user base they want that capability, so I am examining how we can provide it in a way that wont get misused. I can’t say any more at the moment, except to say I’m working right now in finding a way to safely express relationship preference.

  11. Twilight says:

    What both you and John say are true – but if the banning is limited to “gamertags” then we have a slightly different situation. I don’t know the culture of the 360 online community, so can’t speak to how out of line it is.

    It will be interesting to see what Toulouse comes up with in this “change” he’s working on…

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