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Apple CEO Tim Cook comes out as gay: I'm proud

"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either," Tim Cook wrote on Thursday.
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook steps out on stage during an Apple event in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 22, 2013.
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook steps out on stage during an Apple event in San Francisco, Calif. on Oct. 22, 2013.

One more thing.

After years of staying relatively silent, Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay on Thursday for the first time publicly, saying that "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."'

"So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," Cook said in Businessweek, becoming the first Fortune 500 chief executive to come out publicly.

Cook, who took over the role in 2011 shortly before the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs, writes that he's been open about his sexuality with many people in his life, including "plenty" of his Apple colleagues, and that it hasn't changed the way he's been treated. 

He continues in the post:

"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. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry."

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The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce praised Cook for coming out, writing in a statement that "The business voice of the LGBT community, commends Tim Cook for his moving and heartfelt coming out essay ... Our goal is to expand economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people. Tim's words today will help us in that mission."

The acquisition of equality for Americans has moved at a rapid pace since the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year, allowing the U.S. government to start recognizing same-sex marriages. This month alone, Supreme Court Justices rejected appeals to hear same-sex marriage cases out of Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin – all of which saw their bans fall in both federal district and appeals courts, immediately legalizing marriage equality in those five states. Wyoming on Tuesday became the 32nd state to legalize gay marriage, joining several other conservative areas in allowing same-sex weddings.

The colossal shift goes for public opinion, too. A recent poll shows half of the American public believes gay marriage is a constitutional right, with 50% saying that same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. The numbers in support of marriage equality this year far surpass those from a similar survey in 2004, when just 32% of Americans said they favored gay rights.

Apple as a company has been a strong supporter of marriage equality. The company in 2008 donated $100,000 to the "No on 8" campaign, publicly opposing California's Proposition 8 to deny same-sex couples equal rights. In support of the Supreme Court's ultimate decision to kill the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 in June of 2013, a statement from the company read that "Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we consider it a civil rights issue. We applaud the Supreme Court for its decisions today." 

And Cook himself has been a vocal supporter of gay rights over the years. Just earlier this week during a ceremony in his home state of Alabama, the CEO slammed the state's record on civil rights during an induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

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"As a state we took too long to take steps toward equality and once we began, our progress was too slow," Cook said at the ceremony. "Too slow on equality for African Americans. Too slow on interracial marriage, which was only legalized 14 years ago. And still too slow on equality for the LGBT community."

In December 2013, a speech Cook gave on gay rights and racism -- including personal discrimination -- led some media outlets, including Gawker's tech site Valleywag, to ponder if that was the first time the Apple CEO acknowledged his sexual orientation publicly. This summer, a CNBC segment of "Squawk on the Street" turned heads when one host accidentally "outed" Cook, saying “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he’s gay at the head of Apple isn’t he?” 

But Thursday's remarks leave no room for guessing. Cook writes that as Apple CEO and beyond he will "personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up."

"We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick."