• CEO says many U.S. states still have discriminatory laws
  • Cook recognized by rights organization for his activism

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the U.S. still has a long way to go in the fight for gay rights.

The country still hasn’t achieved equality, despite a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court giving gays and lesbians the right to marry nationwide, Cook said in a Saturday night speech at a dinner hosted by Human Rights Campaign in Washington D.C.

“Thirty-one states, more than half the stars on our American flag, have no laws to protect gay and transgendered people from discrimination,” Cook said. “Discrimination doesn’t simply fade. It has to be pushed back, challenged, overcome and then kept at bay.”

Cook spoke after HRC recognized him for using his platform as leader of the tech giant to fight for gay rights. Since writing publicly about being gay for the first time in an essay in Bloomberg Businessweek last year, Cook has come out against state laws that allow small businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds.

“Sometimes, you just have to be loud because people need to hear that being gay is not a limitation,” Cook said. “People need to hear that you can be gay or transgender and be whatever else you want to in life -- a CEO or a senator, an Olympic athlete, an award-winning actor or actress."

Economic Strength

Earlier in the evening U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the roughly 3,000 gala attendees, praising Cook as someone who understands equality is a key part of America’s economic strength.

Cook pledged his company would be at the forefront of the fight for equal rights.

“We all have a role. Apple will continue to play our role by remaining open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love,” he said.

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