Mozilla Firefox CEO Brendan Eich Quits Amidst Gay Marriage Controversy

Newly appointed Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned his job under pressure as a result of the gay marriage controversy.

Eich, a co-founder of Mozilla, the parent company that created the Firefox browser, and inventor of JavaScript, contributed $1,000 in support of California’s Proposition 8. This was a 2008 ballot initiative, approved by California voters, that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In 2013, the US Supreme Court tossed out the ban on technical grounds.

Eich’s donation created an uproar within Mozilla and on social media, and dating site OKCupid was particularly vocal in demanding that Eich — who was previously the company’s chief technology officer before his recent promotion — step down.

As this controversy raged, many have pointed out that that President Barack Obama also opposed gay marriage in 2008.

In a statement on the Mozilla blog, Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker explained in part, “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. 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. We must do better. Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community… ”

Baker added that the Mozilla organizational culture embraces both equality and freedom of speech as well as diversity and inclusiveness.

Eich confirmed yesterday on his blog that he was resigning. In an earlier blog post, Eich vowed that “I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.”

According to the FiveThirtyEight blog, although employees of most Silicon Valley tech firms generally opposed Proposition 8 in terms of their donations, 60 percent of Intel employee donations apparently were in support of the ballot measure.

Political commentator Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, had this to say about Brendan Eich’s abrupt departure from Mozilla after about two weeks on the job. “The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”

Gay marriage supporter Roger Simon of PJ Media similarly declared that “Although not held by me, Eich evidently has beliefs shared by literally billions of people of faith throughout the world. Those demanding his head like junior Robespierres should be ashamed of themselves. Not only are they violating the spirit of the Bill of Rights and freedom of religion, they dishonor their own cause and embarrass themselves no end. They move things backwards when the think they are moving things forwards.”

Setting aside your views on same-sex marriage, in a society that places a high value on tolerance, should someone lose a job merely because of a private political contribution?

[image credit: Darcy Padilla]