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Mozilla mutiny over new CEO's opposition to gay marriage

Firefox

By Barry Collins

Posted on 28 Mar 2014 at 09:53

Mozilla employees are calling for the organisation's new CEO to stand down just days after he got the job, because of his past opposition to gay marriage.

Brendan Eich, who was only unveiled as Mozilla's new CEO on Monday, made personal donations to a campaign and US politicians who opposed gay marriage.

Eich supported the controversial Proposition 8, which stated that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California", but it was ruled unconstitutional in June last year.

Several senior Mozilla staff have taken to their Twitter accounts to call for Eich to resign, including the Mozilla Foundation's Chris McAvoy, who tweeted: "I'm an employee of @mozilla and I'm asking @brendaneich to step down as CEO".

ArsTechnica has collated tweets from several other Mozilla staff, all calling for Eich to resign.

Eich and Mozilla attempted to head off the furore earlier this week, when it was first revealed that he had supported Proposition 8. Eich wrote on his personal blog that he wanted to allay concerns over "my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla", without explicitly retracting his opposition to gay marriage.

"I know some will be sceptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything," Eich added. "I can only ask for your support to have the time to 'show, not tell'; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain."

Mozilla released a separate statement reaffirming its commitment to equality in the workplace, while Mitchell Baker, the chair of the Mozilla Foundation - the non-profit organisation that supports Mozilla - stated her own support for gay marriage, before expressing surprise at Eich's backing of Proposition 8.

"I was surprised in 2012, when his donation in support of Proposition 8 came to light, to learn that Brendan and I aren’t in close alignment here, since I’ve never seen any indication of anything other than inclusiveness in our work together," she wrote on her blog.

Eich hasn't responded to any of the tweets calling for his resignation.

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User comments

Fuss over nothing

I really don't see what the fuss is about here, the guy is essentially being crucified for his opinion. I appreciate this is a touchy subject, so hopefully I'm not offending anyone by simply tackling it head-on, but there are a great many things in life in which people do not agree; political leanings, position on abortion, euthanasia etc etc. If we asked people to stand down from positions of power just because their perspective on something differed from that of their underlings, I doubt anyone would be a suitable candidate.

Not that my opinion matters, but I do disagree with the guy's views, I do support gay marriage, to each their own in my opinion, but I also believe in letting the most suitable candidate do the job, and his beliefs in no way effect how to run a company, so I also disagree with those calling for him to step down.

It seems to me that the people making a big deal about all this are the very people who don't want to be singled out, but they're singling him out for his beliefs just because the two don't align, so not only is it a fuss over nothing, it feels like double-standards.

By PaulG7 on 28 Mar 2014

Tolerance should be a 2-way street

It is both astonishing and ironic that Eich is being castigated whilst clearly trying to resolve the conflict between his personal beliefs and his openly declared commitment to equality.

He has said that he is committed to 'anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these', so if he demonstrates this, what more needs to be done? The employees of Mozilla are not sex-workers, so why is someone's sexuality an issue in the workplace? Private stuff should be kept private - whatever your orientation or predilection.

It is time that people like Eich were given a 'free vote' this, and be shown the kind of tolerance that is simultaneously being demanded of them. He has work to do. All this is a distraction.

By Reality_Cheque on 28 Mar 2014

@PaulG7

I agree 100% with you.

His personal opinions should not affect his ability to do his job and should have no influence on staff.

If that turns out not to be the case, then he should go, but until then I see no grounds for making him go.

If most of the staff were democrats and he is republican, would he also have to go?

By big_D on 28 Mar 2014

I agree

I agree with most of the opinions voiced above, but there are two things that make it more complicated in my view.

First of all, when he made political contributions large enough for him to be identified as the donor his views became public, not private any more. Add to that his position at the top of an organisation that, while not selling products, has customers whose decisions to use Mozilla might become less favourable as a result of his views.

Welcome to America! The land where money talks, no Washington politician is not a millionaire and cars have warnings in their door mirrors that "vehicles may be closer than they appear". PC rules.

By SwissMac on 28 Mar 2014

Bigotry = Stupidity =/= CEO

The problem is that bigotry over things like Prop 8 do not just stem just from ignorance, but from an active and sustained rejection of factual reality.

This is not a desirable quality in a CEO.

By ANTIcarr0t on 28 Mar 2014

@ANTIcarr0t

And what is factual reality in this case?

By PaulG7 on 28 Mar 2014

Intolerance gone mad

I broadly agree with the above. Seems to be a sad example on how we now culturally confuse an opinion that goes against current political correctness as an offence. ANTIcarr0t's own comments in a way illustrates this. We have turned a tolerant society into an intolerant one by equating an opposing opinion as being a sign of intolerance! I see no reason for him to step down unless Mozilla as an organisation is so bigoted as to no longer tolerate anyone who disagrees with gay marriage. How this relates to which browser I use I have no idea.

By nugget on 28 Mar 2014

Tolerance should not be a two way street if it means I have to tolerate you restricting me. I will tolerate your distasteful thoughts but I will not tolerate your ACTIONS to restrict my rights and freedom.
Equally this is about making sexuality NOT an issue, reality_cheque.
So let's say this man was a Christian who donated to an organisation that wanted to restrict the rights of Muslims? Or he paid his money to a group that promoted the disintegration of marriage for black people. Or, to give this a biblical flavour, donated to a group that lobbied for all shellfish eaters to not have the right to travel freely (and this shellfish argument is frankly as ridiculous as the religious argument against gays)? Would you make the same statements?
I think this is not so much about his inability to be the CEO as about the message it puts across about Mozilla as him being the ultimate representation of Mozilla. Companies like Mozilla want to be associated with desirable attributes, not intolerance.
We can't avoid demonstrations of sexuality all over the place: it's there when someone has a marriage, has a child, kisses, hold hands, goes on a dinner date, books a hotel room with a double bed, buys a Valentines Day card to "my girlfriend", etc. This is why this so called "private stuff" cannot be private.

By BabyDinosaur on 28 Mar 2014

@Comments authors - Was it *just* an opinion?

When you start throwing cash at politicians to get your "opinion" acted upon, those opinions turn into actions.

It is his *actions* that have offended them.

By Mark_Thompson on 28 Mar 2014

Actions speak louder than words

Completely agree with both BabyDinosaur and Mark_Thompson. Eich has not just expressed "an opposing opinion" as nugget puts it, but has actively contributed to political campaigns and politicians because he presumably felt so strongly against same-sex marriage that he believed it was worth shelling out money for.

And yet his employees are just supposed to take his word for it that he can put aside such strong feelings and genuinely treat *all* of his employees equally?

This is not double-standards, this is not being intolerant of his beliefs or opinions - these are genuine concerns by employees based on their new boss's *ACTIONS*.

By bioreit on 28 Mar 2014

Bigoted?

Whatever happened to the idea of "I may strongly disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (Voltaire, I think(?))

By jontym123 on 29 Mar 2014

@jontym123

The problem is he disagrees with what others are saying and then acting on those views by donating large amounts of money to influence politicians.

By Ulfarus on 29 Mar 2014

@Ulfarus

You mean he acted in the same way as trade unions, corporations and wealthy individuals, donating money to influence politicians.? Nothing new there, then(?)

By jontym123 on 29 Mar 2014

@jontym123

Yes, exactly like that. And I would wholeheartedly support a mutiny of those trade unions, corporations or wealthy individuals were wilfully financing the reduction of freedoms for individuals.
But don't confuse this: we are not saying he should be locked up, he he is perfectly within his rights to THINK whatever he wants. We are just saying that, especially as he's acted on that, it's fair for people to boycott Mozilla when then think a representative of that company goes against fundamental principles of liberty and decency. So your Voltaire quote applies quite fairly on both sides.

By BabyDinosaur on 30 Mar 2014

None so intolerant as who demand tolerance.

By martindaler on 30 Mar 2014

@Ulfarus

So if I understand your position, people who disagree with the "correct" opinion may privately hold and express their "incorrect" opinion, but must abstain from fighting their corner and supporting their cause - they must vacate the arena and concede a walk-over to the "correct" opinion?
That is baloney! The democratic process, argument, debate, the whole thing, is open to BOTH sides, the rules are symmetrical, including lobbying, financing, promoting whichever opinion or stance. The line is drawn at illegal methods - such as constructively dismissing people who support the 'wrong' cause.
AFAIK there is no suggestion that Eich has been making people's employment conditional on their acquiescence to his beliefs - the converse however seems to be happening. How ugly.

By martindaler on 30 Mar 2014

@Ulfarus @BabyDinosaur....

"The government (controlled entirely by the Inner Party) attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labeling unapproved thoughts with the term thoughtcrime, or crimethink in Newspeak.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_Police

As we sleepwalk slowly into Orwell's nightmare vision of the future....

By jontym123 on 31 Mar 2014

...and a bit more....

From the same wiki article:-

"The term "Thought Police," by extension, has come to refer to real or perceived enforcement of ideological correctness....."

Final example of intolerance. Like most people I find the views of the far right to be highly repugnant. But I find the actions of the far left to stifle those views by violent counter demonstration to be even more repugnant.

By jontym123 on 31 Mar 2014

@ martindaler

"So if I understand your position, people who disagree with the "correct" opinion may privately hold and express their "incorrect" opinion, but must abstain from fighting their corner and supporting their cause - they must vacate the arena and concede a walk-over to the "correct" opinion?"

Where does he say it is the "correct" opinion? Stop attributing FALSE opinions to other people and then using that as an excuse to denigrate their viewpoint. It is the height of poor debating technique to compose a strawman argument, as you have done.

The rest of your comment is complete baloney, as your initial stance is so utterly incorrect as to render the rest of your ramblings as invalid.

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

@jontym123

And yet I see viewpoints like Eich (and comments like yours) as disappointing echoes of actual history (rather than suppositions based on fiction) - whereby anyone campaigning for their corener is labelled a "nimby" or a radical or a fan of Big Brother.

Funny how you are criticising these supposed "far left" intolerants for not subscribing to Voltaire, while at the same time strongly criticising them for having their own opposing viewpoint, describing it as "bigoted", "intolerant" and "repugnant". And then capping it all off with an implication that this is part of a slippery slope towards "thought police".

Bravo. You muppet.

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

Intolerance

The black intolerance of people who will not accept any view but their own as the correct on is a cancer spreading throughout the world; it must be resisted by every possible means. My political beliefs are my own damned business, and if they don't infterfere with my duties as a CEO they're none of yours or anyone else's. It is no understatement to say that these attitudes are solely the result of a desire for political control of thought and attitude by means of censorship - the most hideous possible end, which will ultimately be recognised and regretted by those who practice it.

By Whiskybreath on 31 Mar 2014

@bioreit

Surely your attitude over this is no more constructive than you believe jontym123 and martindaler's to be? The way I see it, a number of people are calling for the resignation of their CEO based on his beliefs, and the converse is not true. Eich isn't asking these people to find another job, quite the opposite in fact, he seems quite willing to try and build some bridges. Not sure I'd use such inflammatory words as "bigoted", "intolerant" and "repugnant", but it does seem that Eich is not letting his beliefs affect his work or who he will work with, but these people are, and in my opinion that makes them more at fault here.

Whether or not his beliefs will ultimately be proved unacceptable, gay marriage is something a lot of people around the world are getting to grips with. A bit of tolerance of other people's opinions, thoughts and feelings, at Mozilla and in this conversation wouldn't go amiss.

By PaulG7 on 31 Mar 2014

@PaulG7

I disagree. Martindaler put words in the mouth of Ulfarus and used that falsehood as the whole basis of his attack.

Jontym123 is equating those people in Mozilla who are asking for Eich to step down (key point here - it is not "calling for" nor 'demanding' his resignation) with Big Brother and bringing in his distaste for the far-left's "violent counter demonstration" as a reason. I've yet to see any evidence from him or anyone else that employees asking for their new CEO to step down via social media is somehow violent. His further comments implying that these seem to be actions indicative of a left-wing conspiracy to force everyone submit to their own viewpoint ("Thought Police", etc) also seem to have come out of nowhere, with regards to the actual occurences in this story.

I completely agree that the topic is same-sex marriage is a difficult one for many people and is therefore highly contentious, but I personally feel that these Mozilla employees have very legitimate concerns of how their new boss's previous actions may affect his ability to treat them fairly according to the company's own principles and policies.

I see this situation as analogous to if someone was campaigning for "A Woman's Place Is In The Home"-type organisation and helping to fund them. If that person then became the CEO of a company like Mozilla, I would certainly sympathise with any employees who doubted whether that CEO would be able to be genuinely even-handed and abide by that company's equality guidelines.

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

Reality has a liberal bias

@PaulG7
Factual reality is that not a single argument against gay marriage has ever stood up to close examination. Every one is based on idiocy, ignorance, or the hatreds of a 3,000 year old tribe of goat herders.

There is no more 'controversy' over this than there is over evolution or climate change. Sometimes there is only one sane way to view a situation or issue, and not because of political correctness.

People with trouble correctly evaluating truth claims make bad CEOs because business (like life) consists of competing truth claims, and profit consists of getting it right!

The only ones that dispute this are a bunch of hateful people who don't want to let go of the counter-factual prejudices that define them.

By ANTIcarr0t on 31 Mar 2014

@bioreit

I don't think that you read my comments in the way that they were meant. If that is down to my poor means of expression then so be it.

I was trying to make a few more general comments about apparent intolerance.

My 'extreme left versus extreme right' example bears no relation to the Mozilla situation other than illustrating extremes of intolerance.

I do not like intolerance of any kind. If that makes me a muppet, so be it.

By jontym123 on 31 Mar 2014

@ANTIcarr0t

Just to clarify; I agree with you that there is no factual basis upon which to argue the case for gay marriage being a bad thing. Also agreed that believing there is factual evidence in this instance isn't something I'd consider desirable in a CEO, however...

These Mozilla employees aren't calling for Eich to stand down because he's going to be a poor CEO, they're asking for it specifically because of his stance on gay marriage. Additionally, we could extend your argument to cover a lot more than just gay marriage, a significant portion of the world put their faith in ancient texts, believe they go to an afterlife and think there is an all powerful creator, without any of what you or I would consider to be factual evidence, but that doesn't mean they aren't good business men and women, or good people.

By PaulG7 on 31 Mar 2014

@jontym123

I completely agree that written comments lack the ability to convey nuance. However, I would say that your comment regarding Big Brother and thought police - which was aimed as a direct reply to Ulfarus and BabyDinosaur - seemed to establish your viewpoint as equating what they were saying with those concepts, ie attempting to control the thoughts of others and ensuring adherence to a 'correct' opinion.

Your follow-on comment seemed to then go further with the reference to "violent counter demonstration" - as it seemed to be a direct continuation of your previous comment (which was addressed as a reply to those two commenters), the implication to me was that you were accusing them both of subscribing to an Orwellian viewpoint and implying that they would also subscribe to "violent counter demonstration" as a means to achieving that aim. But as you say, the means of expression are tricky over this medium so I accept that the way I read that comment was not as you intended it.

The "muppet" comment from me was because you were criticising them for intolerance (despite their clarification that they agreed with the protection of rights for personal opinions) then went on to describe apparent far left-wing views as "bigoted", "intolerant" and "repugnant" and also seemed to be associating anyone who posited a far-left view as a violent individual who would seek to abuse governmental powers to force conformity, while simultaneously hinting that a far-right person would not engage in such activities (due to your comments about finding the far-left more repugnant, etc).

Which would be an intolerant viewpoint, as it is ascribing heavily negative characteristics to one set of people based purely on their political leaning.

But as with the other comments, I am willing to concede that the medium was at fault and apologise if I caused any undue offence (in realspeak - I am sorry).

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

@bioreit

So take out my refererence to "correct" and "incorrect", replace with "for" and "against", or "against" and "for", it matters not.

By martindaler on 31 Mar 2014

@ martindaler

I refer to my previous comment:
"I see this situation as analogous to if someone was campaigning for "A Woman's Place Is In The Home"-type organisation and helping to fund them. If that person then became the CEO of a company like Mozilla, I would certainly sympathise with any employees who doubted whether that CEO would be able to be genuinely even-handed and abide by that company's equality guidelines."

Irrespective of whether all the methods used to lobby for such a hypothetical campaign were legal or not, a CEO with a responsibility to uphold a company's equality policy would likely come under significant scrutiny if they were found to have actively contributed to such a campaign.

As I said, I can certainly sympathise with those who expressed doubts that the CEO's spoken platitudes of ensuring equality will over-ride their previous actions (particularly when those actions do not conform to that company's principles on that subject).

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

@bioreit

So please tell how to decide, and who decides, which opinions may be espoused and entered into the area of debate, and which are beyond the pale.

By martindaler on 31 Mar 2014

@martindaler

1. Not my place to say which nor why. But a good starting point for a CEO of a large corporation is to look at the corporate policy.
2. No-one, absolutely no-one, here nor of the Mozilla employees, has said this was about which subject matters could or could not be debated, so please put your attempt at a straw man argument to bed. Their issue, as I understand it and which I sympathise with, is that he actively and financially contributed to political campaigns which run completely counter to Mozilla's corporate policies with regards to equality. That is more than just "debate" - that is paying to help others to persuade the lawmakers that one section of society should have fewer rights than another. He felt so strongly that one section of society should be treated less equally that he paid money to try and help it happen.

Do you think that is acceptable behaviour? Would you trust, without equivocation, that person to make genuinely equitable decisions with regards to employees who fall within the sector he was paying money to try and ensure would not be treated equally in wider society?

By bioreit on 31 Mar 2014

@bioreit

You keep implying that the levers of debate be denied to Eich - that he can hold and express (verbalise) his opinion, but not do anything active or financial or political to promote it. You don't seem to place the same restrictions on others taking the opposing view.

You just keep banging on about straw instead of engaging what I am saying, which is that the rules are symmetrical, that all sides of the debate are entitled to fully engage in the debate arena and to avail themselves of all legal methods of persuasion to actively advance their point of view.

A side show is whether his views conflict with Mozilla's, but that is really not the argument of substance here.

By martindaler on 31 Mar 2014

@ martindaler

And you keep implying that the rights and freedoms of one section of society can be legitimately restricted in your viewpoint, as long as the methods used to get there conform to legal routes. So if one section of society is too poor to pay for representation, campaigns, sympathetic politicians, etc, then tough crap, they deserve all that's coming to them from a far richer and more powerful lobby?

The native Australians spring to mind as an example of just how that kind of thing turns out, but it's ok because both sides of the debate had the same opportunities!

so how would you deal with a debate like that, where one side holds all the money, all the influence, all the politicians, all the media and all the advertising and all the power? How would you ensure a fair and symmetrical debate in that scenario?

By bioreit on 1 Apr 2014

To sum up...

...for some posters here (and I name no names but I suspect that you know who you are..) the words "closed", "mind", "dead horse" and "flogging" come easily to mind.

As posted earlier (quote) "None so intolerant as those who demand tolerance."

By jontym123 on 1 Apr 2014

Is what these employees are doing a debate though? Calling for him to resign, however good the principles doesn't debate the issue, it just ends up making them look bad

By PaulG7 on 1 Apr 2014

OKCupid

Looks like OKCupid are taking the same approach http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26830383. Can't believe I'm standing up for the guy, but his opinion isn't an unpopular one. Millions of people agree with him. Maybe we should all stop using Javascript too, seeing as he created it

By PaulG7 on 1 Apr 2014

@jontym123

Got it - those with differing viewpoints have a closed mind and are flogging a dead horse.

What was that quote about intolerance again? You might need to try and actually understand it next time you read it.

By bioreit on 1 Apr 2014

@bioreit

On the contrary.

Seems to me that those who have expressed strongly held views in this debate will countenance no other viewpoint, valid or not.

By jontym123 on 1 Apr 2014

@jontym123

"Seems to me that those who have expressed strongly held views in this debate will countenance no other viewpoint".

Yes, like accusing people of wanting a big brother state and the thought police and of "[sleepwalking] slowly into Orwell's nightmare vision of the future..." for offering their viewpoint.

How wonderfully tolerant of you.

By bioreit on 1 Apr 2014

@bioreit

I think that if you re-read my posts you will find that I was not making accusations, rather making comparisons about political correctness and thought police.

In any event, the penny has finally dropped with me.

You are either 'stirring the pot' here to cause some mischief or you really are the opinionated bully that the tone of your posts conveys, browbeating any dissent into submission.

Well, I submit. Continuing to try to debate with you is futile as you seem hell bent on dismissing any opinion that doesn't align with yours, coupled with barely concealed insults.

Mental note to self - don't rise to the bait of bioreit's posts again.

By jontym123 on 1 Apr 2014

@jontym123

You are well within your rights to have those opinions of me, but I think they are wrong.

For what it's worth, my opinion of you is someone who has a bee in his bonnet about perceived left-wing people and seeks opportunity to denounce them as "violent" and seeking ominous control of all people's actions and thoughts.

I retract my earlier apology, as I see now that your posts were just as hypocritical, intolerant and judgemental as I originally thought they were.

By bioreit on 1 Apr 2014

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