As many on this blog know, I have long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and gay rights. However, I have qualms about a story this morning that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has been forced to step down after a campaign by an online dating service. The campaign revealed that Eich had made a donated $1,000 in 2008 in support of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state before it was struck down in the federal courts. The controversy raises again the tension between free speech and corporate identity.
On Monday, OkCupid sent a message to visitors suggesting that they use browsers such as Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer or Google Inc’s Chrome: “Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”
We previously discussed this issue in relation to the Chick-Fil-A controversy. In this case, Eich was targeted for a small donation to the campaign in 2008. Many people oppose same-sex marriage out of deeply held religious or political views. I do not agree with them but this remains a deep divide in our country.
Eich was exercising his free speech rights in a matter of great public debate. I happen to view many current laws as discriminatory. However, the Supreme Court has yet to rule that states cannot prohibit same-sex marriage and there is no indication that Eich would refuse to comply with such a ruling if it were handed down. Indeed, there is no allegation that Eich has been in any way discriminatory toward employees or associates based on sexual orientation.
However, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker indicated that, if anything, it took too long to can Eich: “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry.”
That is what concerns me. Should companies now move quickly to can officials for religious or controversial personal views? There was a time when people would be fired for supporting gay rights. What about giving money to presidential candidates like Rick Santorum who oppose gay rights generally? Notably, President Obama’s Administration spent the first few years in office defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in court. Obama himself refused to endorse same-sex marriage for years in office 00 during the year period of this donation. To this day, the Obama Administration refuses to treat discrimination against homosexuals as the same a race for the purposes of constitutional interpretation. So why is Eich not allowed to hold such personal views in making donations?
I do not question the right of all citizens to launch such a boycott and to use their market power to influence corporate policy. Clearly, many people stopped going to Chick-Fil-A in such a protest. However, I have concerns over the basis for such a campaign when there is no evidence of political or personal views having any connection to the company. Indeed, the company appears a leader in non-discriminatory practices. Where do we draw the line in such cases? What about corporate executives below the CEO or contributions to political parties or candidates viewed initial to same-sex marriage?
228 thoughts on “Mozilla Co-Founder Brendan Eich Forced To Resign After $1000 Donation To Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign”
The reaction of the crowd in Moore, Oklahoma is hardly an example of something in which to take civic pride.
That Principled Conservative Embrace of Anti-Gay Businesses Somehow Doesn’t Extend to Anti-Anti-Gay Businesses The conservative logic on the Mozilla firing
BY BRIAN BEUTLER
It’s been less than two months since the country concluded a big public debate over the rights of employers vis a vis their employees and their customers—a debate in which conservatives overwhelmingly advanced the view that business owners shouldn’t be compelled to do just about anything that conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The debate occurred on such general terms because conservatives strenuously objected to the notion that they were aligning with people who specifically intended to discriminate against gays and lesbians in their hiring and entrepreneurial practices. This was, we were told, an argument about liberty in the abstract.
Six weeks later, those same conservatives are mourning the end of American pluralism. What happened? An employer effectively terminated one of its executives in accordance with deeply held principles (and, I should note, in the company’s financial interest). But the person who lost his job in this case wasn’t fired by a bigoted boss for the sin of being gay. Rather, he resigned under pressure from his board of directors for the sin of helping a campaign that sought to nullify same-sex marriages.
For those who haven’t figured it out yet, the person in question is Brendan Eich, the tech wiz and now-former CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, which is most famous for developing the Firefox browser. Two weeks into his tenure at the helm of the company, the dating site OkCupid began boycotting Firefox in protest of Eich’s $1000 donation to help pass California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that prohibited the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. Eich stepped down soon afterwards, to the great consternation of the conservative commentariat.
The dizzying speed with which conservatives reversed their views about the rights of employers tells you everything you need to know about the sincerity of their claim that lofty principles are at stake. But the framing has always been used as a shell to obscure the practical underpinning of their position. Today, Eich’s ouster is a symptom of a new fascism—but yesterday, conservatives were doing ritual dances to celebrate the firing of Shirley Sherrod, and the termination of the Dixie Chicks’ sponsorship contracts. Yesterday, freedom of speech didn’t mean you must get to say whatever you want and keep your status as a government bureaucrat or famous musician. Today it is imperiled if it means you can’t say whatever you want and remain CEO of a company or the star of a reality TV show about backwater millionaires.
Yesterday, employer rights were sacrosanct, and trumped the rights of sexual minorities; today they must be curtailed to protect the rights of political minorities.
What all of this reveals is that the animating issue for conservatives isn’t abstract principle, but the privileges they are losing, or sense that their tribesmen are losing. This also explains why the reaction on the right has been so whiny and hyperbolic. Eich’s supporters think it’s appropriate for there to be repercussions for engaging in speech they don’t like, but not for engaging in speech they do like. And, very suddenly, speech they like is becoming culturally disfavored.
“Check your privilege” is a popular argument by assertion on liberal social media, and it’s typically a conversation ender, which is why I try to avoid using it. But anyone who’s white hot with rage over Eich’s quasi-firing really needs to check their privilege.
Nobody seriously disputes that Mozilla’s board would’ve been acting appropriately if they’d fired a CEO for donating to a white supremacist group, because the white supremacist worldview is no longer a privileged one. Opposing gay marriage used to be privileged, but very quickly, and particularly in Silicon Valley, it no longer is. It’s that abrupt change in status that makes this episode so jarring to people who still oppose same-sex marriage or who align politically with same-sex marriage foes. People are finding that the views they hold, and which were recently dominant, are suddenly no longer dominant, and in many parts of the country anathema. And CEOs of big companies—particularly companies like Mozilla, which benefit from the largesse of progressive donors—can’t dabble in anathema unrepentantly, and expect their boards will just shrug it off.
Andrew Sullivan in 2008
My own view is that we can protest and have; we are also within our rights to boycott businesses who bankrolled the initiative, and to confront the Mormon church. But we lost a fair fight because of complacency, and dreadful leadership.
FORCED OUT gives the impression he was fired or was told to leave.
Reading your reader’s comments, it is apparent that their impression is one that does not even square with Mr. Eich’s. Mr. Eich doesn’t even use the term “FORCED OUT’. I can’t help but infer an agenda behind the language you used. You didn’t even source public information about tensions in the board room… WHY?
“Shouldn’t we be free to debate the pros and cons of gay marriage without fear of savage reprisal? ”
I think we need to debate the merits of YOUR marriage, first.
“I have no problem with same-sex marriage, but at this time I do not support polygamy.”
What State is polygamy legal in?
Historyonics here… the horse before your cart is the gay marriage WAS legal in California and PROP8 was about STRIPPING RIGHTS!
If you’re gonna do comparisons…
… Compare your own marriage Rights to being stripped away.
Would speak out about preserving your Rights?
“I dont think they were right to target the guy. Free speech works both ways.”
A) “THEY”… specify. Who are you targeting with your broad brush?
B) If a CEO has the Right to free speech off the job, do his employees?
This article is a “WET MILK CARTON” of an article… Check yourselves.
Interesting that you still see this as a left vs. right issue.
“His termination was grossly unfair.”
How do I kindly put this?
What is dictating, in your head, the idea he was FIRED?
What purpose do you have in ignoring the truth?
3 Board members left prior.
I’ve documented it here clearly.
Just because Mr. Turley hides evidence from his readers is no excuse.
The campaign against Mr. Eich was overwrought and disproportionate. His termination was grossly unfair. And frankly, I strongly suspect that Mozilla’s reaction was based on economic concerns rather than commitment to civil rights principles.
The Westboro “church” picketed military funerals, the Sandy Hook funeral, the Boston Bombing memorial, etc. They sound like a cult.
Sometimes the mantra, “I disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it” is VERY hard to live by. There are some protests that could reasonably be construed as intended to start a riot. Like if the KKK had a march in Harlem.
Here’s an article from one of my favorite authors, Rabbi Shmuley. He always seems to take a reasonable, tolerant approach:
There are “unfortunately” just some times where police officers somehow forget to bring their handcuffs and citation books when the Westboro Church gets their demonstration disrupted. 🙂
That was awesome, Charlton. Yep, gloating over dead kids will get you run out on a rail in most places. And, Paul, we would hope that people don’t resort to violence.
News reports said there were no arrests. I assume no citations either.
Their lawful assembly being disrupted notwithstanding, I’ll bet there wasn’t one citation issued for Disorderly Conduct.
I don’t know. They posted something on their website, or so I have been told. I refuse to click on it and give them the traffic. Frankly, I really don’t care why. I just care that even in a seriously conservative state, the hate is getting pushback, and it is not just gay people. That was not a crowd of 2,000 LGBT people. It was a crowd of people.
Link to local TV station:
HAHA! Chuck that was amazing!
I agree with the sentiment, I do not agree with violence. I think we can agree these people (Westboro Baptist) are beyond the fringe.
Last year, on May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma. One of the buildings hit was the Plaza Towers Elementary School where seven children were killed. The tornado killed a total of 24 people and hundreds of people were injured. At one farm, a hundred horses were killed.
Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church showed up to gloat over the dead kids because God hated them due to fags (I’m sorry, but somehow I missed that connection in Sunday school class).
What could possibly go wrong?
They had a permit, and police were there to protect them, but Moore, OK does not have enough officers to protect them from a crowd estimated at 2,000 who broke through police lines. Can you say, “Run for your life,” three times real fast?
Times, they are a-changing.
Charlton – why would they show up yesterday?
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