Conflicts between members of the LGBT
community and religious or social conservatives
The brief assignment of Brenden Eich as CEO
of Mozilla, the Firefox browser company.
We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage"
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
2014-MAR-24: Brenden Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla, is promoted its CEO:
Mozilla is a non-profit group that distributes the Firefox web browser at no cost to users. According to w3schools.com, Firefox is the second most popular browser worldwide. Google's Chrome is the most popular. Unlike other browsers, it is open sourced, and created largely by a community of volunteers.
Brenden Eich co-founded the company in 1998. He was promoted to CEO on 2014-MAR-24.
Two days later, he issued a promise to Mozilla employees which begins:
"I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support. At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results.
A number of Mozillians, including LGBT individuals and allies, have stepped forward to offer guidance and assistance in this. I cannot thank you enough, and I ask for your ongoing help to make Mozilla a place of equality and welcome for all. Here are my commitments, and here’s what you can expect:
- Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment, to events, to community-building.
- Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn’t make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
- My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
- My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. ..."
Eich's involvement in California's Proposition 8 in 2008:
It was widely known within Mozilla that he had given a $1,000 donation to the "Proposition 8" citizen initiative in California circa 2008 -- often referred to as "Proposition Hate."
Prop. 8 attacked an earlier decision by the California Supreme Court in 2008-MAY to legalize marriages for same-sex couples. Prop 8 was heavily promoted, largely by the Roman Catholic Church, their lay fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus, and individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the LDS/Mormon church -- who had been urged by their church to donate. LDS members donated over $20 million. 2 Prop 8 narrowly passed by the voters on election day in 2008-NOV; the vote was 52% in favor and 48% opposed. It immediatley prevented new marriages by same-sex couples; existing same-sex marriages continued to be recognized.
However, on 2013-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry. It nullified the 9th U.S. Circuilt of Appeals' ruling on technical grounds and determined that the the original District Court ruling was valid. It had found Prop. 8 unconstitutional. New marriages began immediately in California and are continuing.
Immediately following Eich's promotion, a firestorm of objections materialized over his 2008 donation. Some employees
of Mozilla, individual members of the LGBT community, and supporters of that community complained about his appointment. However, none of the major pro-LGBT rights organizations appear to have advocated his replacement as CEO.
Response by OKCupid.com:
As a method of objecting to Mozilla's appointment of Eich, this dating site allegedly added coding to their home page to detect what browser their visitors were using. If it was Firefox, their site then displayed a message that urged the visitor to switch to another browser.
We checked this web site on APR-07 using Firefox which is our default browser. The coding had apparently been removed, and we were asked to sign up.
Eich's resignation and Mozilla's response:
Eich resigned on APR-03. The Chairperson of the Mozilla Board, Mitchell Baker, posted an open letter online during APR-03 in which she apologizing for Eich's appointment. She said:
"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."
She said that Mozilla stands for both freedom of speech/expression and for equality. She said that:
"... figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard." 3
That is very true.
In common with the majority of American adults in 2008, Eich opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Even President Barack Obama who was elected for his first term on the same election day did not favor same-sex marriages at the time. It was not until 2011 that national polls began to show that a slim majority of American adults supported marriage equality. It was only in 2012 that President Obama started to personally support marriage for same-sex couples. Current polls show about 55% support for same-sex marriage among the public. There still remains a substantial and shrinking minority who still oppose same-sex marriage.
A cursory search of media stories on this topic did not find any references to Eich's current opinion about marriage equality.
Reactions to the to the reactions to Eich's appointment:
- Patrik Jonsson, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, said:
"Eich has not been accused of discriminating against any employee, and he has not apologized nor suggested that he no longer opposed gay marriage. ..."
"The resignation was greeted with cheers among many in the gay community and beyond, some of whom had threatened to stop using Mozilla’s ubiquitous Firefox browser if Eich didn’t step down.
But others are drawing a different lesson from what happened to Eich, likening the events to a 'scorched earth' policy that’s antithetical to a society where tolerance for opposing viewpoints is a mainstay of the Constitution.
'This is troubling because one’s politics is one’s own business,' Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, told Bloomberg News. 'That’s been the rule in American business for a very long time.'
To be sure, those behind the movement to oust Eich believe that a Silicon Valley company in America shouldn’t accept those who believe in 'discrimination.' Some say opposition to same-sex marriage is akin to fighting against interracial marriage, and can no longer be socially accepted. ..."
More broadly, however, the vehemence of the attack has shocked some in the business community, and turned attention to the clash of liberal mores in Silicon Valley with the deeply held belief among many Americans that marriage is the union of [one] man and [one] woman.
It has also forced some long-time gay rights activists to question tactics that punish people over their beliefs rather than engage them in debate.
That’s particularly irksome to those who suggest that those who say they support diversity have failed to respect diversity of thoughts on a complex moral and legal question. 4
- Branden Eich, on 2014-APR-04, issued a statement saying:
"Our mission is bigger than any one of us, and under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader." 4
- John Hawkins, writing for the conservative web site Townhall.com referred to the OK Cupid website that also took a stand against Eich as:
"... a third rate, anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-free speech dating site."
He referred to Mozilla itself as:
"... a third rate, anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-free speech browser company." 5
" ... OkCupid and Mozilla Firefox [are] sending a message. That message is that they believe people who support traditional marriage are second class citizens. That message is that they don't respect conservatives. That message is that Christians aren't welcome to use their products. 5
So, as a Christian, what are you going to do about it?
Mumble something about it being "unfair?" Whine a little? Are you going to sniffle because they're picking on you? If you're a pastor, what are you going to say to your flock about it? Are you going to let it pass so nobody 'gets upset?' Is that why you became a pastor? So you could slink away when a church full of people need your leadership because you're afraid to make people who hate your guts mad?
He recommends that Christians opposed to same-sex marriage boycott both OK Cupid and Mozilla. He concludes:
"If you're tired of seeing Christianity smeared, traditional marriage destroyed and good men mocked because they believe in Jesus Christ, send your own message to Mozilla Firefox and OkCupid. If you believe that Jesus Christ deserves a modicum of respect, PROVE IT. If enough Christians follow in your footsteps, you better believe other businesses will pay attention and they will think twice before they spit in our faces again. 'Faith without works is dead,' my friend, and if we want Christianity to have a future in this country, then it's time to start standing up, speaking out and fighting back when we're disrespected like this." 5
Webmaster's comments: (bias alert):
I favor cutting Eich some slack. I think that we have to differentiate between two factors:
- Holding the belief that marriage should be restricted to one woman and one man. There is no indication what his stance on marriage equality is today. His statement of APR-04 seems to indicate that he was making an effort to take non-discrimatory positions towards sexual minorities. He obviously did prefer marriage inequality in 2008 -- an opinion which the majority of American adults also held at the time. However, there is every likelihood that during the more than 5 years since Prop 8, his views have changed.
- Contributing financially to a hate-motivated publicity campaign. Prop. 8 was filled with slurs, misinformation, and disinformation against the LGBT community. Partly because of the lies, the campaign was successful in reached their goal of preserving marriage inequality. However, there doesn't seem to be any information available about when he donated the money. If he made the donation early in the campaign, he probably would not have been aware of the immoral and unethical nature of the TV advertisements that the "Yes" side used and that his donation helped fund.
There remains a lot of anger and fear in the U.S. over marriage equality:
- Many in the LGBT community are angry that they have been denied equality for so long and that their relationships have been devalued.
- Many social and religious conservatives are fearful and angry that they:
- Are losing their religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community;
- That their churches may be forced to marry same-sex couples. [There is zero chance of this happening because of the absolute protection by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.]
- That, over time, they may be eventually regarded as bigots by a significant proportion of the population, similar to how those who oppose interracial marriages are considered today.
If the U.S. is going to heal, then I think it would accelerate the process if people on both sides cut others some slack -- rather than adopting a scorched earth policy.
Unrelated but similar
At approximately the same time as the Mozilla conflict, an even noisier battle occurred at World Vision, an evangelical Christian world relief organization. Their board adopted a more inculsionary policy towards potential employees who are married to a same-sex spouse. They experienced an overwhelmingly vicious attack from fellow evangelical Christians and Christian groups. After two days, they reverted to their previous discriminatory employee policy. More details.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Brendan Eich, "Inclusiveness at Mozilla," Mozilla, 2014-MAR-26, at: https://brendaneich.com/
- California Proposition 8 (2009)," Wikipedia, as at 2014-MAR-18, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- Dave Lee, "Mozilla boss Brendan Eich resigns after gay marriage storm." BBC, 2014-APR-03, at: http://www.bbc.com/
- "Mozilla’s Brendan Eich and gay marriage: Intolerance over tolerance?," Christian Science Journal, 2014-APR-05, at: http://www.csmonitor.com
- John Hawkins, "It's Time For Christians To Blacklist Mozilla Firefox And OkCupid," Townhall, 2014-APR-05, at: http://townhall.com/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-APR-06
Latest update: 2014-APR-07
Author: B.A. Robinson