Mozilla CEO Brenden Eich Resigns Over Prop 8 Controversy, Mozilla Remains Pretty Cool

Earlier this week, OKCupid joined the outrage at Mozilla’s new choice of CEO Brenden Eich by asking their users to uninstall Firefox. Yesterday, Brenden Eich resigned.

This after Eich insisted that he would not resign over his private $1,000 donation to the campaign for Proposition 8:

Eich said the reason Mozilla as a community did not take a wider stance on issues such as LGBT marriage was the same as his reason for not explaining his donation: to avoid fragmenting its community. Without a large group of people who disagreed on lots of issues, Firefox would never have happened, he said.

“So far we’ve been able to bring people together of diverse beliefs including on things like marriage equality,” he said. “We couldn’t have done this, we couldn’t have done Firefox One. I would’ve been excluded, someone else would’ve been excluded because of me – I wouldn’t have done that personally, they’d have just left. So imagine a world without Firefox: not good.”

Eich also stressed that Firefox worked globally, including in countries like Indonesia with “different opinions”, and LGBT marriage was “not considered universal human rights yet, and maybe they will be, but that’s in the future, right now we’re in a world where we have to be global to have effect.”

Pulling these statements made to the Guardian apart, it appears as though Eich fundamentally disagrees with gay marriage. He points to this belief as something he’s held at least since Firefox One (the browser’s initial release was in 2002). He seems to make the argument that because not everyone in the world agrees that gay people are people, that he shouldn’t have to take that into consideration in his political donations either. He goes on to state that he would not speculate as to whether or not he would make a similar donation in the future. In short, the interview was a refusal to respond to public outcry and an insistence that a position of tolerance would protect those who held intolerant beliefs. That because of the corporate culture of inclusion, what is basically a bigoted stance would be included as well. Kara Swisher of re/code hit the nail squarely on the head when she wrote:

A crisis indeed, not helped much by a series of Eich interviews this week, in which he declined to apologize and used what can only be described as pretzel logic about how a clearly tolerant community like Mozilla should also support what many now consider intolerant beliefs.

Though OKCupid’s ban certainly got more press, they weren’t the first corporate entity to boycott Firefox in the wake of Eich’s appointment. The movement actually started with Rarebit, an app development company founded and run by Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, who are married to each other in a post-Prop 8 world. They pulled their app from the Firefox market place and called for Eich to apologize or resign. They were hoping for apologize. In a blog post on the Rarebit website, they write:

I guess this counts as some kind of “victory,” but it doesn’t feel like it. We never expected this to get as big as it has and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.

We absolutely don’t believe that everyone who voted yes on Prop 8 is evil. In fact, we’re sure that most of them just didn’t understand the impact the law would have. That’s why so many people have changed their mind in 4 short years – because they saw the impact and pain that the law caused to friends and family members.

People think we were upset about his past vote. Instead we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy. Seriously, we assumed that he would reconsider his thoughts on the impact of the law (not his personal beliefs), issue an apology, and then he’d go on to be a great CEO.

The fact it ever went this far is really disturbing to us.

Those sentiments are echoed throughout the gay-nerd-world. Mozilla is a fine NPO with interests in making sure we don’t turn into Dave Eggers’s The Circle—a dystopia in which privacy is a nostalgic dream of an era gone by. Credo launched a movement Thursday after Eich’s resignation to encourage the use of Firefox once more.

via Credo

via Credo

Included on their page is the statement:

It’s important to remember that Mozilla is not a company, it’s a movement supported by tens of thousands of volunteers around the world. Mozilla is a non-profit organization fighting to keep the web open and free for all of us. They put people above profit, and fight for user choice and privacy. Their mission is vitally important to every grassroots movement, including the work that we do here at CREDO.

And the thing is, it’s true. Using Firefox and supporting Mozilla means casting your vote against global mass surveillance.  And it’s also true that Eich is an amazing mind and a fixture in the tech community—the man helped invent JavaScript, for chrissakes. He would have no doubt been a great CEO. If only he would have evolved a little and acknowledged that his support of a bigoted law directly and negatively effected those he worked with and those who use Firefox.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s Executive Chairwoman, said in a statement on the Mozilla blog:

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

Baker’s statements to the press include that there is no frontrunner for a replacement, but as always one hopes they pick a woman because there’s a massive shortage of women in powerful leadership positions, especially in the tech industry.

If you’d like to reinstall Firefox, you can do so here.

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Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

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32 Comments

  1. Thumb up 7

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    Bah. I’m just not happy with this situation at all.

    Six years ago, I donated $50 to Planned Parenthood. If I somehow wrangled a CEO position tomorrow, would it be fair for the fundamentalists to start boycotting my (imaginary) do-good engineering company because of it? Would I be expected to apologize for my small donation/stance on a politically controversial issue?

    I’m happy that anti-gay sentiment is swiftly becoming publicly unacceptable, but this type of action isn’t how I want us to win things. It feels too much like bullying and I think it really sucks.

    • Thumb up 3

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      This is exactly my feeling about this too. It’s like what’s happening with the nominee for Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy. He has a personal opinion about gun regulation (pro) and expressed that opinion publicly (twitter, in this case, not a campaign donation), and it’s being used as a means of blocking him from the post. This kind of argument cuts both ways.

    • Thumb up 14

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      If the person in question was a Holocaust denier or supporter of white supremacist groups, would you feel the same about this situation? (I’m not trying to start an argument, I’m genuinely curious.)

      In general I don’t think people should lose their jobs because of political views. But this is not just a political issue – it is a human rights issue. In my mind, that makes all the difference.

      • Thumb up 0

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        Hm, that’s an interesting question! I think I probably would? I find those things morally repugnant, but it still doesn’t make the method of activism any more logical or appealing to me.

        Boycotting Mozilla doesn’t advance gay rights, and if anything, I’d say it probably just makes people on the other side dig their heels in further. The only reason I can think of to go this incredibly circuitous route is that the cost to participate is so small, it’s easy to get lots of people involved. (But honestly, even if we’re going to set the bar that low, I can think of better ways for people to spend those two clicks in support of LGBT rights.)

    • Thumb up 1

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      I wonder if there’s something about engineering culture in terms of how people are reacting to this. I’m reminded of the end of this article about women & tech:

      “For Ms. Shevinsky, the solution was returning to tech and trying to change the culture from the inside. And part of the reason she decided to work with Mr. Dickinson again, she said, was that both believe in another type of diversity: the diversity of thought.

      “It’s very dangerous for us as a community,” she said, “to say we will only work with people who share our beliefs.”” – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140406&_r=1

      I’m also an engineer and feel like it’s important for people who are very different from each other to be able to work together. In part because I have been the outsider that people didn’t want to work with.

      I also take issue with the whole premise that people who are anti-gay marriage are anti-gay people that permeates this article. For example, “He seems to make the argument that because not everyone in the world agrees that gay people are people, that he shouldn’t have to take that into consideration in his political donations either.”

  2. Thumb up 0

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    I used to use Firefox until tumblr savior stopped working, so I switched to Chrome on my desktop. I was meaning to get around to switch to Chrome on my laptop, too, but this event made me make my final decision. I like Chrome’s interface and extensions more anyway.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    This makes me uncomfortable. Just because someone doesn’t support marriage equality doesn’t automatically make them terrible people. This dude is clearly qualified for this job and he shouldn’t have been bullied into stepping down from his position. I want to live in a world where people’s political views don’t affect their potential for holding jobs. Tolerance goes both ways, yo.

    • Thumb up 12

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      Tolerance goes both ways until someone takes an action that directly harms you or your people. He donated a not-insignificant amount of money to a campaign to invalidate & prevent queer people’s marriages, causing them real and present difficulty with such things as immigration, custody issues, hospital visitation, survivor benefits, etc. I don’t care if people think my love is less or wrong. I care when they try to sign their dumbass opinions into law.

  4. Thumb up 4

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    My thoughts are: You Do You includes those whose views don’t agree with ours. This guy isn’t a policy maker, politician or anything close to that. He was the CEO of a tech company. Therefore, his private views are none of the public’s business, as long as he is not using his company to fund anti-equality groups. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right of everyone to marry and have a family, it also includes the right to a religion and the right to have (and voice) that opinion. In my opinion, forcing someone out of a job because of his private opinion on marriage equality was a violation of his human rights.

    • Thumb up 6

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      I think where I differ on this is that it wasn’t a private opinion. Financial contributions to political campaigns are public speech (or so the Supreme Court says, anyway). That free speech is protected from government interference and repercussions but the First Amendment doesn’t protect you from private consequences. I think that’s particularly magnified by the nature of the Mozilla community, where the CEO is not just a boss but the leader of a diverse community. If he’d been made CEO of Microsoft, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. I wouldn’t have fired him (and he wasn’t fired) but I don’t weep over this either.

      • Thumb up 8

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        i wish i could like this comment more than once

        the first amendment protects you only from the government

        just because the government can’t impose consequences on speech, doesn’t mean that’s wrong. it just means the government believes the people will get it done when it needs to happen. and sometimes we do.

        like, that’s how cultural change occurs? by people speaking up and forcing a shift in the balance of power towards progress?

        maybe i’m missing something. but i really don’t get the “it’s bullying” stance at all.

  5. Thumb up 18

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    To me, it’s a testament to how successful the right wing is at shaping discourse on controversial topics that here on Autostraddle people are making comments that sound like conservative talking points on gay marriage.

    He is not being bullied or having his rights trampled. He chose to resign, from a position of high influence and visibility in a liberal-leaning company known for its values of diversity and inclusiveness, after people exercised their own freedom of speech to speak out against his attempts to trample their rights.

    His donation was not a six-year-distant momentary lapse in judgement. In several interviews this week he has refused to apologize for, or back down from, his anti-gay marriage stance.

    Finally, tolerance does not and should not “go both ways” when one side is actively seeking to tear down the rights to happiness and liberty of the other side. Do I really need to be saying this, here of all places? Do I need to point out the link between intolerant attitudes towards same-sex couples, and depression, suicide and murder rates in the LGBT community?

    I don’t think people should be actively hunted down and chased out of every job – or be actually fired – for their political views, however noxious they might be. But this was not just any job, and he was not fired. People exercised their right to speak out, and he weighed the consequences of his actions against the success of the company he had been asked to lead.

  6. Thumb up 6

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    TECH CEO BULLIED…SOB!
    WHAT ABOUT HIS MASERATI?…MUCH CAR PAYMENT!
    HIS FEELINGS… SOB!
    SUCH DISCRIMINATION…SOB!

    Brenden Eich resigned willingly, most likely with a very large paycheck in his pocket, why does he need my sympathy?

    How can tolerance go both ways when it barely goes one way?

    Ask CeCe McDonald about tolerance. Ask Crystal and Britney. Ask Matthew. Ask Trayvon. Ask Mollie and Kristene.

  7. Thumb up 6

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    Eich was not fired, as many LGBT folks are for his views.

    Eich was not violently oppressed or beaten.

    He resigned. Why? — we don’t know exactly, but he didn’t appeal to his largely liberal consumer base because of his previous financial contributions, ones he had a chance to explain but did not.

    It became a relevant factor because Mozilla is a large company with a great deal of public influence. AND, not insignificantly, I assume Mozilla employs a some LGBT folk, whose work environment was made uncomfortable by knowing their boss actively supported a campaign to limit their rights.

    If I ever became the CEO of a large public company or a politician (which means things have gone horribly wrong in my life, btw), I would expect my past activities to be scrutinized and if then I no longer appealed to a large number of my consumers/employees/constituents because of those activities, then I would no longer be effective at my job.

    How is this different from someone resigning because they used a gay slur on TV? In this case, he put his money (and thus his power) behind a discriminatory act, instead of using his voice to be hateful — and then refused to apologize.

    Now, on the other hand — totally ambivalent about the amount of positive press OKCupid got from this: it was an easy marketing move for them, while they still utterly fail at putting a full spectrum of sexuality and gender options.

  8. Thumb up 4

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    I was having a hard time trying to pin down what has been making really frustrated and uneasy with the “tolerance goes both ways” said by (cis) queer people in regards to this story and similar situations. I would like to firstly thank Chandra and YourMom points about tolerance and how it does not cut both ways.

    You (general you) do realize that tolerance does not go both ways, we are talking about human rights, we are talking about people’s dignity, and the people who think ill of queers are taking action to oppress them. It is not about icky feelings, and ffs when people of color and women were becoming more autonomous and getting more rights, those with the opinions “who did not agree with the times” created hate groups, you know the KKK! We have NOM and other organizations that LOOK and seek to indoctrinate people like Brenden Eich to give resources to make queer, poc, women lives hard by using government doctrine.

    I don’t even know wtf am I looking at with this “bullying” nonsense.

    • Thumb up 3

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      This has freaked me out a lot, people here justifying a hater’s actions of hate against gay people. Hate is hate is hate and when as Bra, YourMom and Chandra point out, when action comes behind hatred, then someone somewhere’s human rights are being deliberately limited.
      No one has to tolerate their human rights being oppressed. Like YourMom says, where was the tolerance for Trayvon?
      This is frightening.

    • Thumb up 3

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      Yeah, I realized after reading YourMom’s post that not only should tolerance not go “both ways” here, but in fact there was no tolerance on his part to begin with. Since when does voting against marriage rights = tolerance? If he stated he was personally opposed to SSM but chose not to actively vote others’ rights away, that might be a different story.

      Another thing that I’ve been hearing a lot (here and elsewhere) that’s really frustrating me is this idea that his political views are sacrosanct because they’re his own personal, private beliefs, and hence nobody else’s business. Um, hang on a sec. His political views include the belief that he gets to vote on other people’s marital status. I’m pretty sure people’s marital status counts as their own personal, private business, so once he makes that a part of his political beliefs and actions, then no, those beliefs and actions are no longer his sole concern.

    • Thumb up 0

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      He is actively supporting Prop 8. He does not support rights for gay marriage.
      Gay marriage rights are human rights.

      Those who oppose human rights are treating some humans very badly.
      Treating some humans very badly is cruel.

      I do not support cruelty.
      Bra this is not a message contrary to you it is a message in support of you.

      Tolerance is not when you tolerate your own or others rights being ridden roughshod over by some Redneck who has rights to run over your rights. That is abuse.
      Tolerance is when the Redneck sees more value in a “Live and let Live” motto than “kill and only let some live”.

      Just to make clear, this guy is a Redneck.

  9. Thumb up 3

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    Yay, hip hip hooray for moving towards equal rights for all. I am not intersted in marrying a same sex partner but ALL humans should be allowed to marry who they choose, whichever gender they choose. NOONE should have the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or for any other reason.

    Its unethical and inhumane. And thanks to those who protested and spoke their minds to bring this awareness. IF it were not for those types of brave souls I would still not be able to vote and wold have to ask my daddy or husband for permission to do things like go to the doctor or go somewhere.

  10. Thumb up 1

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    I will totally put in my name for CEO of Mozilla. For as long as I’ve been using technology and working in the tech industry, it has always upset me to see so few women.

    Firefox Nightly is unbelievably stable. As a hard-core Apple fan and Mac user, as much as I want to love Safari, it frequently pisses me off to no end.

  11. Thumb up 1

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    you know Riese’s motto of
    “You do You, and I’ll do Me”

    Well, to pervert that, Brendan Eich
    “Doing himself ie Supporting Prop 8,
    Excludes, You doing You, ie prevents you from getting same sex married”.

    Kind of puts a new slant on things. So, Uproar, Protest, Anger, at Brendan Eich’s being an arsehole. Hence, Joy at Brendan Eich’s resigning.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    Really late to the party, but thanks for writing this, and covering this story in general.

    It really makes me sad that this is the second incident that Mozilla’s had in recent memory related to marriage equality, and not wanting to take a stand against bigotry.

    While the response was lukewarm this time, at least it’s a step in the right direction.

    I wish that Eich had just apologized, instead of resigning, it’s unfortunate that he was unwilling to consider the harm he caused with his donation or reconsider his beliefs.

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