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Tim Cook's name to grace Alabama antidiscrimination bill

The naming announcement comes a month after the Alabama native, who recently came out as gay, criticized the state for its record on granting equal rights.

Apple CEO Tim Cook will have an antidiscrimination bill named after him in Alabama. Sarah Tew/CNET

A forthcoming antidiscrimination bill in Alabama will be named for Apple CEO and Alabama native Tim Cook, who recently came out as gay.

Democratic state Rep. Patricia Todd announced Wednesday that she plans to name her bill barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers and state employees after Cook. The announcement, first reported by the Huntsville Times, came a month after Cook accepted an Alabama Academy of Honor Award with a speech criticizing the state for being slow to grant equal rights to everyone, including the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

"As a state, we took too long to take steps toward equality," Cook said, according to a Huntsville Times account of the October 27 speech. "We were too slow on equality for African-Americans. We were too slow on interracial marriage. And we are still too slow for equality for the LGBT community."

A few days after Cook gave the speech, he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation for the first time, saying he wants to use his position as leader of one of the world's most valuable companies to bring attention to the discrimination minorities face. "Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day," Cook wrote in an 800-word essay.

Not long after Cook came out as gay in late October, Todd jested with reporters that she would put Cook's name on the bill, which she plans to introduce during the Alabama legislative session beginning in March. After learning of Todd's comments, an Apple representative contacted her to express concern about having Cook's name attached to such a hot-button bill, but the company changed its position after the conversation was reported on BuzzFeed.

Apple chalked up the whole episode to a misunderstanding.

"Tim was honored to hear that State Rep. Todd wanted to name an antidiscrimination bill after him, and we're sorry if there was any miscommunication about it," an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. "We have a long history of support for LGBT rights and we hope every state will embrace workplace equality for all."

Cook, who was named Apple's CEO in 2011 when Steve Jobs resigned for health reasons, was born in Mobile, Ala., and earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Alabama's Auburn University.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. PT to clarify it was the Huntsville Times that first broke the story.