Apple Rejects Anti-Gay App

Should iTunes honor all freedom of speech?

Courtesy of GLAAD

When Manhattan Declaration creators tried to launch an app on iTunes recently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs decided differently. While the chief executive has faced plenty of criticism this year for picking and choosing which apps do and don’t get green-lighted on iTunes, the Manhattan Declaration folks – who created an app bashing gay marriage and abortion rights by scoring higher for “right” answers – didn’t take it too kindly when they were turned down, reports The Advocate.

In response, the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) – a group that sponsored the failed app – created a video this week criticizing Jobs that compares him to “Big Brother.” The reason, it says, is because iTunes offers plenty of apps supporting gay issues, including directories, guides, advice on same-sex nuptials and even apps about gay history.

And this makes the almost 8,000 gay rights supporters who signed a petition banning the NOM app plenty happy.

The question is whether Jobs, by way of Apple’s iTunes, has any obligation to support freedom of speech? Even hate speech? His business – like any retailer – must select inventory based on customer demand. But also like any retailer – online and off – he also has the option of rejecting goods (or apps) that he or his customer base may deem inappropriate or offensive.

Do the gays luck out this time because Jobs tends to lean left? Absolutely. One might even argue the opposite is the case at Walmart, a mega-chain that carries guns and ammo but regularly censors what books and music it carries, based on its own Christian and often right-wing-leaning values.

But as Christian and anti-gay marriage organizations around the country urge Apple to reconsider its decision to ban NOM’s app, the free speech fire has ignited online. And while gay activists may have won this battle (for now), one must also remember that iTunes also takes a pretty hard line when it comes to excluding porn, overt gay literature and pretty much any controversial content that falls on either side of the freedom of speech argument. That Apple rejected an app that rattled the chains of gay marriage proponents – by calling it “immortal” – is not entirely surprising given the company’s record for avoiding controversy at all costs.

The irony here is that by trying to avoid controversy, Apple actually courted it. And now Christian, right-leaning blogs around the country are calling on dedicated followers to email Jobs ([email protected]) in support of NOM. And they’re doing so with a vengeance.

GLAAD is also lobbying for the app – and others like it – to be kept off the proverbial shelves of iTunes as a matter of gay rights. Where do you stand? Should Apple support all apps – even the anti-gay ones? And would you expect your local mom-and-pop shop to do the same?