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Apple backs bill banning LGBT discrimination

Apple, along with Dow Chemical and Levi Strauss & Co., voices its support for non-discrimination legislation that would establish federal equality for LGBT Americans.

A group of Apple employees march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade on June 28, 2015. Max Whittaker/Getty Images

Apple joined other prominent US companies to support federal legislation that would ensure equal treatment in the workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, the Human Rights Campaign announced Thursday.

"At Apple we believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love," the company said in a statement on Thursday. "We fully support the expansion of legal protections as a matter of basic human dignity."

Apple's show of support, which was accompanied by similar statements from Dow Chemical and Levi Strauss & Co., provides significant backing to new legislation that will be introduced to Congress on Thursday, called the Equality Act. The legislation, if passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, would expand civil rights to ensure the LGBT community is treated equally and without discrimination in the workplace.

The HRC is the largest civil rights organization in the US representing the LGBT community. The organization conducted a survey in March that found that 63 percent of LGBT Americans have faced discrimination in their lives. The majority of those instances of discrimination occurred in the workplace, according to the HRC survey.

On its website, the HRC notes that no federal law currently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination, and 29 states fail to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The HRC also says more than 100 bills it believes are "anti-LGBT" have been filed in 29 state legislatures across the US.

Apple has been one of the more outspoken technology companies seeking workplace equality for all Americans. Indeed, the HRC noted that Apple scored a perfect 100 out of 100 on its annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures a company's LGBT inclusion in the workplace. The company is also on the list of HRC's Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.

In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he is gay for the first time publicly, writing in an 800-word essay on Bloomberg Businessweek that he is "proud to be gay," and believes that it's "among the greatest gifts God has given" him.

"Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I'm gay, and it doesn't seem to make a difference in the way they treat me," Cook wrote. "Of course, I've had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people's differences. Not everyone is so lucky."

In March, Cook spoke out against legislation pending in several states and signed into law in Indiana that supporters say represents "religious freedom." The legislation bans any action by state or local governments to "substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion." Critics, including the HRC, have said the legislation could allow businesses to discriminate against patrons or employees -- particularly those in the LGBT community -- on "religious freedom" grounds.

"These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear," Cook wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. "They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality."

This isn't the first time Apple has partnered with the HRC to support the LGBT community's goal of creating workplace equality. Earlier this year, Apple, along with other technology giants such as Microsoft and security firm Symantec, signed a letter of support for the HRC's efforts to dismantle anti-LGBT bills around the country.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.