Mozilla Boss Quits Over Gay Rights Controversy



The CEO of Mozilla Corporation has resigned after criticism of his opposition to gay marriage. It follows protests on Twitter and by dating site OK Cupid, but has prompted debate about the limits of tolerance.

Brendan Eich, who created Javascript, was the co-founder of Mozilla and had been the chief technical officer of the Mozilla Corporation since 2005. Last month he was promoted to chief executive officer.

The promotion reawakened a controversy that began in 2012 when it became public knowledge that Eich had donated $1,000 to the campaign for Proposition 8. That was a measure, passed narrowly by a vote of the Californian public, to explictly make same-sex marriage illegal in the state. The measure was later declared unconstitutional.

Following Eich’s promotion, three of the six members of the Mozilla board resigned in protest. Numerous Mozilla employees, some in senior positions, used Twitter to openly call for Eich’s resignation.

Management at dating site OK Cupid even configured the site to display a message whenever any users tried to access the site using Mozilla’s Firefox browser. The message addressed the controversy and asked users to switch browsers, though didn’t stop Firefox users from clicking through to the site itself.

Mozilla has now announced Eich’s resignation and executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker has apologized to users:

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.

The news has had a mixed response with some critics of Eich celebrating his departure but others in the tech world questioning whether the campaign against him was itself a form of intolerance.

(Image Source: Mozilla Foundation / Wikimedia Commons)

22 Responses to Mozilla Boss Quits Over Gay Rights Controversy

  1. Evidence shows that children who grow up in abusive households, grow up to be abusers themselves. The LGBT community grew up in a very abusive environment, and now it’s moved on to abusing others. I found the fight for tolerance & acceptance admirable and agreed with, and supported them. Now the quest for tolerance has changed to active oppression of other views and they are using many of the techniques they learned when they were abused on others. Ostracization, shouting down, ridicule.

    A brilliant technologist has been forced out for holding the same opinion in 2006 that Barack Obama held in 2008 when he ran for president. The LGBT community overwhelmingly supported Obama, even though he had those views, and expressed them publicly. I’m wondering when they will realize what they’ve become.

    • A bunch of people being opposed to one guy serving as CEO = one guy losing his job.

      One guy supporting a measure to ban gay marriage = lots and lots of LGBT people being left out of wills, left with no rights to any children they are raising and left out of hospital rooms when their partners are dying.

      Who’s intolerant here? And you call yourself a geek?

      Clearly this guy isn’t brilliant enough where it really counts. If he’d never invented anything we’d hardly be suffering now. But he sure wanted to make people suffer some other way, didn’t he?

      • Dana, your heart is in the right place, but your facts are loony. How does one man supporting an admittedly intolerant religious opinion = anything to lots of people? The man donated $1000, a handful of years ago. Hardly a sum able to sway politics in a state the size of Ca.

        He did nothing but get a great new job and the reactionary progressives freaked out. He didn’t take the company in an antisocial direction or voice an anti-gay opinion in his roll as CEO. He was attacked and lost his job for not having what someone else decided were the right ideas for him. It is quite clear that it is the people preaching tolerance who are now being intolerant of others.

        His social opinions may not be admirable, but that doesn’t mean that he can not be effective in other areas. I have worked quite successfully with many people who I disagreed with on matters unrelated to our job.

      • …What? He’s not a politician, At that point he wasn’t even CEO. He did as most people do who care enough- he gave support to the side he believe in. I’m not saying he was right in doing so (in fact i vehemently believe he was wrong), but it was his right to support that measure. As far as i can tell, he kept his opinions to himself in the workplace.

        He has a differing opinion on a topic.. a topic which less than 20 years ago even mentioning you were in support of was the equivalent of political suicide.

        If you are and atheist, do you boycott all christian businesses and call for them to be shut down? or do you accept that there is a differing belief than yours. and it’s one that many people put money into?

        Yes there are repercussions to those beliefs, but that’s the same for everything.

        I guarantee you most CEO’s have beliefs i disagree with, but that doesn’t mean I will boycott their product and call for them being fired. I’m not looking for a witchunt.

    • Freedom of speech is only a right protected from the government, not protected from the private sector.

      Try saying anything you want at work, even things that offend your boss, and see how long you keep your job.

      You don’t get a special pass just because you hate people.

      • So, by your account a Catholic organization can fire someone for donating to planned parenthood?

      • Also, check your privilege. It’s inherently paternalistic to try and intimidate others with statements such as, “And you call yourself a geek?” Last time I checked, submitting to a specific political orthodoxy was not required in order to be a geek. Such statements only serve to create a feeling of “otherness” in people who may feel left out or marginalized by the majority.

      • Actually, his donation to a political campaign is constitutionally protected free speech. It was not a direct attack on anyone. It was just a contribution to a cause that you (and I) disagree with. The reactionary “I must never be offended by anything” far left are the ones who went after an individual’s ability to earn a living because they didn’t like his personal ideas. That, my friend is not the moral high ground.
        Incidentally, your assumptions about my sexuality, socioeconomic standing, and proclivity for tech based on my not agreeing with you is very silly indeed.

  2. When I was still in the work (employee) world I was given half an occurrence for going home with a migraine. My job was over-the-phone level 2 tech support and you *cannot* do that job if your brain’s stuck in a vise and you’re sick to your stomach. If you got enough occurrences, they fired you. My migraines got worse in later years and I shudder to think my only route to medical care when they happened would have been closed to me (back then) *because* they happened.

    Even if you think being homophobic is “just holding an opinion,” and if you do you are clearly straight and privileged, people are fired for a lot dumber reasons. I would be willing to bet money I don’t have that all of you complaining about this guy resigning are perfectly OK with employment-at-will laws.

    I see an opportunity here for all you fake geeks who hate LGBT people to stand up for people’s right to maintain employment and fight against at-will laws, “right to work” laws and all these other travesties that let employers get around decency and common sense. Here’s betting you won’t, but you’re working up some pretty nasty karma, dudes, so probably you should think about it anyway.

    • How does enjoying tech, science, fantasy and sci-fi have anything to do with opinions on marriage equality?

    • Dana, whatever valid points you may have go flying out the window when you attempt to label anyone who might disagree with you as clearly straight, privaleged or fake geeks. Let the resentments go, the only person you are hurting is yourself.

    • This is bigotry.

      You can wrap it however you want. Call it a view, an opinion, or a religious tenet, it is still bigotry. And, it is despicable, distasteful, and wrong.

      • Did you vote for Obama? Cause Obama thought the same way just a year or two ago. In 2008, when Prop 8 was a thing, Obama and Eich had the same public position. Bill Clinton signed DOMA. Should we excommunicate these two people from society? Shouldn’t we cut all people a little slack and not just those from our tribe?

        There are all different kinds of marriage. It was not until just recently that same sex marriage, or homogamy, became a part of our lexicon. And linguistics are really part of the problem because we don’t have as many terms for same sex marriage. Even polygamy and polyandry deal with heterosexual marriage between men and women.

        People believe all kinds of things about marriage. Some people think the whole thing is to be avoided. Some choose not to get married but live with a life partner. People live in open relationships but are married. There are people with more than one wife or husband. There are women who see marriage as a way to become wealthy and men who see it as a way to find a younger woman. There are even gays who are upset that other gays want to be married. Marriage means so many different things to each person and it has absolutely nothing with how they do their job. Who cares if someone doesn’t think of marriage the same way you do?

        You will never find someone who totally agrees with you about what marriage is. It is like a debate about whether or not there is true love.

        Shouldn’t we look at how he actually treats gay people rather than whether or not he agrees with you about what marriage is?

  3. Reasonable people can have reasonable differences — the reaction against Mr. Eich was so disproportionate and mobbish that a lot of nerds apparently need to read The Ox Bow Incident and think about their actions.

    We’re talking about a single donation, six years ago. If any past speech or action can be used against you indefinitely in the future, that sends a chilling signal; especially in a world were we lack effective privacy laws to curtail the technological inability of modern society to forget.

    Moreover, it sets an awful precedent in reverse.

    OKCupid sought to punish Mozilla for the past actions of it’s new CEO. They could not differentiate between the corporation and the individual. We’re not talking egregious behavior. We’re talking about a very limited and past action.

    If a corporation can be held accountable for the beliefs of the CEO, does it not follow that a corporation should be able to follow the beliefs of the CEO?

    If Mozilla’s CEO could be forced to resign because people were willing to punish the corporation for his personal beliefs, why should the CEO of Hobby Lobby not be allowed to follow his religious beliefs in his corporation?

    Either the man and corporation are different, or they are the same.

    You can not have it one way when it suits you to bully Eich by holding there is no difference between the man and the company, but then bemoan that lack of separation when David Green says his personal beliefs means his business, Hobby Lobby, shouldn’t provide birth control as part of health benefits.

    And personally, I don’t want the Hobby Lobby world — but the ones who bullied out Eich make that world even more likely through their misplaced intolerance and lack of thoughtfulness.

  4. If you are defending Eich then you are defending a couple of false equivalences. For starters, a CEO is not a wage worker. CEOs have more than just the authority to shape policies involving the treatment of employees and customer relations, they have a responsibility to do so. And he’s donation to more than just the Proposition 8 campaign: in fact it was his reveal donations to the notoriously racist, anti-Semitic, AND homophobic Pat Buchanan’s campaign (among others) that pushed him out of the CEO chair.

    Which, speaking of racism and anti-Semitism, this situation wouldn’t even be an issue if that was what Eich was known for. Instead, he would have been fired immediately as those revelations were made public and no one would shed a tear. But what actually happened was that he was forced to resign (same difference) after those exact revelations I mentioned, but not immediately. By time those revelations were make public, the debate was already defined as homophobia vs marriage equality. And apparently, a lot of people seem to think that homophobia is a more acceptable form a bigotry than racism and anti-Semitism. This scares me.

    Which brings me to the third false equivalence, that we’re even considering legalized homophobia as acceptable. Contrary to what many evangelistic Christians may believe, they do not own a monopoly on the definition of marriage and America is not a Christian theocracy. Proposition 8 was struck down and rightfully so. It’s one thing to allow pastors to decide for themselves which marriages they will or won’t officiate, it’s another thing to let those pastors make the same decisions for everyone else. The LGBT community and its supporters are not being intolerant, they’re standing up against intolerance.

    In the end, Eich’s freedom of speech gave him the right to defend Proposition 8 and bigoted candidates like Pat Buchanan. But our freedom of speech gives us the right to refuse to assossiate with Eich and projects where he can affect the way others are treated. Had he stayed a CTO none of this would be an issue: CTOs influence technological policies, not human policies. CEOs influence all policies. And quite simply, given the policies and candidates that Eich has donated money to in the past, we simply cannot trust him to make fair decisions regarding the treatment of Mozilla’s employees or its customers.

    • I think you, and likely others, are misunderstanding the debate here. I didn’t see anyone on this thread defending the views of Mr.Eich. What they are supporting is freedom. If you are not free to be wrong, you are not free at all.

      Should I have the chance to debate Eich, I would be firmly opposed to his views. What I am not opposed to is his right to hold those views. It is not about Eich holding a correct or admirable position. It is about judging people by their actions instead of your prejudices. If he had taken actions in his roll as CEO to alienate his LGBT employees, then the hysteria might have been justified. At this point I have seen zero allegations that he did anything of the sort in that or any previous management position. Until such time as that happens, the LGBT community (those who participated) are indeed expressing very energetic intolerance of an opposing viewpoint. Claiming they are intolerant of intolerance is a ridiculous word game. He had ideas they deemed bad, so they attacked him for it. I understand the passion, but it doesn’t justify their actions.You can’t just invent nightmare scenarios and accuse people of being on the verge of implementation to justify attacking them.

      CEO or mop pusher, this was the man’s career that people felt free to attack simply because they became aware that someone didn’t agree with them. Are you proposing that no one can hold a management roll unless they agree with your politics? What kind of world would that be? On what, if any, issues will it be acceptable to hold an opposing view? Half of Ca (voters) agreed with Eich. Shall we kick them all out of their jobs, or just the ones in management and/or human resources rolls? Are you starting to see how ridiculous this was?

      • It wasn’t his career we have a problem with: it’s his authority over the treatment of other people that is the issue. When a person’s way of life is threaten they have every right to protect themselves. Eich’s way of life was not threatened. His ability to marry the person that he loved was never in question. But his support of Proposition 8, Pat Buchanan, and other campaigns told the LGBT community that he didn’t respect their way of life. This is not the sort of person that should have influence over how a company treats its employees and customers. If you are firmly opposed to his views like you claim you are then you should be firmly opposed to letting those views have any foothold in our laws. Would you really want to support a major company like Mozilla if its CEO considered some people to be less deserving of rights than others? THAT is the question we must be asking ourselves. And my answer is no: I would not knowingly support such a company. That is my freedom of speech, and you cannot take that from me. I do not have to tolerate or respect bigotry, and I am offended that you think I should do so.

        • You keep using that word, i do not think it means what you thing it means.

          big·ot·ry [big-uh-tree] Show IPA
          noun, plural big·ot·ries.
          stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

          In your words “I do not have to tolerate or respect bigotry, and I am offended that you think I should do so.” That statement alone, in fact, makes you a bigot.

          Also, Eich kept his opinions and judgments to himself, by all accounts i can find, he never let his personal views affect his work or the the treatment of his workers.

          In short: Eich has an unpopular view on a controversial topic. Current information tells us that he kept that to himself, other than making a donation (singular, and years ago at that). He was forced to resign because he was in a position of power and had an unpopular opinion.

        • We tried to show where the logical separation between gay rights and freedom of speech is, and it is pretty distinct. From a moral standpoint, I feel that how we treat those we disagree with shows a great deal about our own character.
          You do not appear to be open to hearing other ideas and skip over counterpoints in favor of more name calling. That is fine. You do not owe me an apology for having ideas I do not subscribe to. Our ideas all evolve over time, and rarely during an internet debate. I hope to see you on our side of the fence in days to come. Until then, I shall leave you to your righteous indignation, and hope you find your way through it. I will take solace from the fact that I am not alone in appreciating the difference, in this little geeky corner of the interwebs at least.