Why Tim Cook’s coming out matters more than we think

BloombergBusinessweek today published an article by Apple CEO Tim Cook who showed the world he’s even cooler and more inspirational than we knew before.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

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I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So 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.

Tim Cook.

These are powerful words from one of the most powerful business leaders in the world. Every single one of us regards their own privacy one of the most important things they have. Giving this up for the greater good is truly applaudable, enviable and exemplary.

But by coming out, Tim Cook did even more. He made a considerable effort to help make the world a better, a more tolerant, a more equal place. Admitted, we do live in enlightened times when equal rights are at the hearts of millions of people and hundreds of statesmen, but at the same time we still have people who truly think that everyone who isn’t like them aren’t worthy of life, and numerous countries where being different can lead to a state-sponsored (or at least -tolerated) death sentence. Moreover, even in this day and age, there are countries that adopt new laws that make discrimination legal. Look at Russia, for example.

And in fact, there are many states in the U.S. where being openly gay can have consequences. As Tim Cook himself puts it:

Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

Here’s a map of states where people actually can be fired because of their sexual orientation:

map

What makes the existence of such laws even crazier is the fact that the United States is based on the pillar of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These are the unalienable rights which have been given to all human beings, according to the very basis of the United States—the Declaration of Independence.

But despite that, there are still, 238 years after writing that declaration, very public voices who think these rights only apply to the white healthy heterosexual man. How else can you explain the almost collective resistance to equal rights by the Republican Party, the party that is supposed to defend the conservative values, which include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I say this being a Republican myself. I’ve always held conservative values close to my heart. And I wholeheartedly agree with the Conservative prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, who, before legalizing equal marriage in his country proudly proclaimed, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.” Maybe it’s also the time for the Republican Party to realize at leadership level that “Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other,” to quote Cameron again.

It’s important that more and more leaders of the world—and I don’t only mean politicians, but also business leaders like Tim Cook himself, community leaders, religious leaders, thought leaders—stand up for a more tolerant world. If people like them speak out, they help shape the world. If religious leaders preach tolerance, they influence their followers to be better people. It is our world, after all, a world where all people are supposed to be created equal.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Tim Cook’s opinion piece today helps fight injustice by giving people the will to stand up for injustice, to say, everyone indeed are created equal and should have equal rights and be treated equally. It also helps give people the courage to live their lives openly, without secrets, without fear, and being proud of who they are—no matter who they are. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

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