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Corporate Activism: Google to Push for LGBT Rights Internationally

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Google has 60 offices around the world, including in The Netherlands.

CREDIT: flickr

Google made a splash in the world of corporate activism over the weekend when top executives spoke to the media about the company’s new "Legalize Love," campaign, an effort to extend support to workers in countries that criminalize homosexuality.

“We are proud to be recognized as a leader in LGBT inclusion efforts, but there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality. "Legalize Love" is our call to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world,” read a statement that appeared on the company’s website Monday.

Speaking of its work ethic, Google emphasized the importance of ensuring an “inclusive experience” for its employees both at the office and in broader society. 

Executive Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe said at a London-based global summit on LGBT employees last week that the globalized nature of Google’s work means that differing levels of openness across countries have ramifications for Google’s workforce.

“‘We operate in very many countries and have a very globally mobile workforce. We have had a number of instances where we have been trying to hire people into countries where there are these issues and have been unable to put the best person into a job in that country,” Palmer-Edgecumbe said. “Conversely we have had to move people out of countries where they have been experiencing homophobia to a different location. And we are also having to support staff in those countries in terms of relationships with the government and homophobia they are experiencing outside of the office.”

The company’s move marks an understanding that business efficiency means judging employees by their qualifications, not their sexual orientation.

Prior to this campaign Google publicly opposed California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. Co-founder Sergey Brin said the company chose to become vocal after considering “the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of [its] employees.”

But the search engine and email behemoth will take on even greater levels of institutionalized discrimination in Poland and Singapore; the two countries where it will reportedly focus its first activism efforts.

In authoritarian Singapore, sex between mutually consenting adult men is banned by a penal code stipulation that outlines up to two years of imprisonment for those considered to have committed such “gross indecency.”

The country’s stance on LGBT issues became a point of contention recently when Yale University announced a plan to build a liberal arts college in collaboration with the National University of Singapore.

In Poland, same-sex couples in the Eastern European nation are not eligible for the legal recognitions and protections their heterosexual counterparts receive. Lech Kaczynski, who served as the country’s president from 2005 until he died in a plane crash in 2010, repeatedly banned gay pride marches in Warsaw and faced allegations of homophobia.

Still, progress seems to be on the horizon for both nations. Singaporean gay activist Alex Au won a local humanist society’s Humanist of the Year award in late June, and Poland elected both its first openly gay and its first openly transgender member of parliament in October last year.

Google will have powerful allies to aid them spearhead their "Legalize Love" campaign, in the two nations and other countries. So far, Citigroup and Ernst & Young have already signed on as partners and have pledged to advocate for LGBT rights and protections via partnerships with grassroots campaigns.

"We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office,” said Palmer-Edgecumbe.“It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work."

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