Tim Cook's coming out prompts backlash in Russia

By |
November 3, 2014

At the age of 53, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has never spoken publicly about being gay, until last week. In an essay published in Bloomberg Business Week, he became the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In the words of the Bloomberg Business Week editor: “This is a big step for society, for American business. There has never been in my searching a CEO who has voluntarily stepped out as a Fortune 500 CEO and said, ‘I’m gay.’ And it’s not just the CEO of any company, it’s the CEO of the most closely watched company in the world.”

GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, wrote an op-ed for TIME.com, calling Cook a "game changer for LGBT people everywhere."

The coming out essay brought a number of reactions from people in the business world, the media and politics. In America, the impact of the announcement on the Apple brand and its stock price has been close to nothing. The news caused barely a ripple in Apple's stock price, which was down about 0.6 percent in recent trading and continued to rise in the next days.

In Russia, on the other hand, the statement sparked anti-LGBT comments and actions. A monument, which looked like a massive version of the iPhone, created to honor former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, was taken down by Russian group of companies called ZEFS.

ZEFS (or West European Financial Union) is a group of companies operating in real estate, construction, and advertising. It is also a group that funded the monument's erection in 2013. In an interview for Business FM Radio, Maxim Dolgopolov, ZEFS chairman articulated that because Tim Cook came out as gay, the monument now violates Russia's law. Dolgopolov expressed opposition to personal sanctions, but kept supporting the "protection of traditional values" by law.He noted that the memorial had been installed near a college "in an area of direct access for young students and scholars". Which makes it unacceptable for the monument to remain there.

In addition, Vitaly Milonov, a member of the ruling United Russia party who sits on St. Petersburg's legislative assembly and the architect of what is known as Russia's gay propaganda law, has called for Apple's CEO to be barred entrance to Russia.

The anti-LGBT discrimination and violence has increased in the country after President Vladimir Putin signed a bill prohibiting so called gay propaganda to minors in 2013. Despite the international efforts and pressure, situation for LGBT people in Russia remains alarming.