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Indiana's law delivers real hurt to this state tech grad

Patrick Thibodeau | March 31, 2015
Tech sector companies are far from angels on the issue of equality.

Tech sector companies are far from angels on the issue of equality. Despite losing her case last week, Ellen Pao's lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, drew attention to the tech industry's "boys club" culture and gender imbalances. But when it comes to gay and lesbian equality, this industry is vocal in its defense of it, combative and willing to challenge political leaders.

This strong stance is born of a combination of moral belief and business reality. Technology companies were among the first in the nation to adopt non-discrimination policies, offer diversity training, and extend partner benefits to same-sex couples to improve, in part, their ability to compete for employees.

Belief in equality is now so embedded in the tech workplace that "religious objection" laws, such as the one recently signed by Indiana's governor, are viewed with shock and outrage and seen as throwbacks to earlier, less-tolerant eras in the nation's history. Critics say these laws, such as the one in Indiana, allow a business owner to deny service to someone and cite religious grounds.

The law also puts Indiana's tech companies at a competitive disadvantage. The tech industry workforce is well-paid, educated and mobile. Industry leaders are warning Indiana that its unwelcoming law will discourage workers from relocating to this state and it may prompt some talent to leave.

This warning could not be truer for Patrick Kozub, who graduated in 2014 from Indiana University (UI) Bloomington with a bachelor's degree in computer science. He is working with three other UI graduates on a big data startup, and they have an ongoing relationship with the university in their research. They named their company Quarry Labs, a reference to the state's limestone mining history. It's a name that "underscores the pride we have in our connections to Indiana by drawing a connection between our data mining expertise and one of the prominent industries of the state," Kozub said.

Kozub has read the text of the new law and is disturbed by its broadness and the level at which it allows people to turn someone away "based on any parameter they like, and of course this does include being gay."

"I never had issues of people not accepting me," said Kozub, who came out as gay while a high school student in Indiana. "I'm very proud of the fact that I was there and made so many wonderful friends and learned so many good things." He said he knows no one who would approve of such discrimination.

Kozub recently took an IT job in Rochester, N.Y., but that was before Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed this controversial law, and his decision to move wasn't in response to the law. The company offered a short-term contract, which is what he wanted as he works to get Quarry Labs off the ground. The employer also has strong anti-discrimination policies, and he has friends and family nearby.

 

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