Why Apple CEO Tim Cook’s open ‘gay’ confession matters to the world

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Last week the CEO of Apple Tim Cook wrote a public essay for Bloomberg Businessweek, in which he proudly proclaim that he considers “being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” The essay has attracted mix reaction from media, customers & fans alike. Hence, EwtNet has taken to the tab once more to analyze how Cook’s real sexuallity will fare among different cultures.

“The world has advanced to the point that (sexuality) is a total nonissue,” said Gerald Storch, a former CEO of Toys R Us. “Ten years ago, CEOs might have kept it closer to the vest because of consumer backlash.”

As much as I would like to sit back here, agree with Gerald Storch and write ‘who cares?’ I know everyone cares. Even those who ‘don’t care’ care so little about it that they take time out to tell us how little they care! It seems that they care a great deal about making sure we understand how little they care.

This could be such a noissue in California and few other states in the US but Apple is a globally recognized company in the world. Remember, for all the personal attachment we have to the company’s products, Apple is still a publicly traded company that must answer to shareholders. Sales and profits rule on Wall Street, not a leader’s sexual orientation. And lets face it, in some countries Cook could be facing a 15 years jail term for his public declaration or worst still a death sentence.

“Apple is a business, not a social group,” said Billie Blair, a management consultant who advises several boards of directors. The only way a board would care about a CEO’s sexual orientation if it somehow drove away customers and sales and profits fell, she said.

“Then the board would be forced to look at the issue,” Blair said. “It’s not about the sexuality of the CEO but rather what the CEO’s sexuality does to the business.”

In Cook’s case, absolutely nothing. Apple’s products may continue to fly off the shelf for the foreseeable future in the US. Consumers don’t care about Cook’s sexuality as much as they care about the battery life and design aesthetics of the iPhone 6 and fancy Apple Watch. But doubts still hovers on how far Apple products will fly in other part of the world in light of this event.

Do you really believe people in over 79 countries of world where homosexuality is outlawed doesn’t care about Cook’s sexuality? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see laws against buying apple products in Nigeria and most African countries.

In the United States where Apple products are more dominant, anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, but they are still on the books in 13 states: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina,  Texas, Utah and Virginia. Conservative state legislators refuse to repeal the laws and, in some cases, police still enforce them.  Reportedly, in the past few years more than a dozen LGBT people were arrested for violating those laws, but the arrestees were freed because prosecutors won’t seek convictions based on defunct laws.

Acceptance of the LGBT community has come a long way since 2007. Thirty-two states offer legal same-sex marriage; courts have overturned gay marriage bans in another five states. The U.S. Supreme Court also gutted a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples.

“We are already moving in the right direction,” said Selisse Berry, founder and CEO of the advocacy group Out & Equal. “Hopefully, (Cook’s announcement) will be a tipping point” for corporate America.

Even so, whether today’s executives and employees choose to come out will still largely depend on a person’s individual circumstances and a company’s particular culture.

Cook was brave enough to come clean and as hopes, his decision could make the road a little less treacherous for gays and lesbians in the workplace.

“If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” Cook wrote.

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