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I’ve been watching the kerfuffel about Mozilla (the nonprofit that produces the Firefox browser among other things) and its new CEO with quite a bit of interest. Personal interest, because to me Brendan Eich is better known as the creator of the JavaScript language, which I use to earn my living. And political interest, because it brings up an interesting irony about tolerance, namely is it ok to be intolerant of someone who is intolerant?

The facts are that in 2008 Eich contributed $1000 to the campaign for Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage (SSM) in California. This contribution became public knowledge in 2012. At the time, Eich was the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) for Mozilla, an organization which he co-founded. A couple of week ago, Eich was promoted to CEO, and that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Many people both inside and outside Mozilla were upset about Eich’s beliefs against same sex marriage, and believed that they made him unfit to be the CEO of a community based organization like Mozilla. One website urged a boycott. Ten days later, Eich resigned.

It is worth noting that Proposition 8 passed in California (although it was later overturned by the state supreme court). That means that in at least some sense Eich’s opinions were not out of the mainstream at the time. Public opinion about SSM has changed dramatically in the last few years.

And Eich himself promised to continue Mozilla’s policy of inclusiveness, including for gay rights, and to separate his personal beliefs from his professional life. According to people who worked with him, he has kept that promise and never let his personal beliefs influence his work or how he treated others.

In a legal sense, this played out as it should have. Of course Eich has a right to his personal opinions. And of course Mozilla has a right to get rid of their CEO for any reason, including if public outcry will hurt the organization.

I have been a CEO in my life, so I understand that a CEO represents a company in a way that the CTO doesn’t. Even so, should Eich be punished for an action he took back when it was mainstream, but which no longer is?

I can see both sides of this issue, so why does this bother me so much? I think Andrew Sullivan (who is a gay conservative columnist) hit the nail on the head:

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.

I have watched with amazement and awe as the fight for gay rights has been won in a stunningly short amount of time. It really was just back in 2008 when California passed Prop 8. I live in Oregon, and it too passed a constitutional amendment banning SSM. Opposition to gays was one of the strongest red meat causes of the religious right. And now, just a few years later, those laws are being overturned and few people question gay rights.

In my opinion, this fight was won because it was not a fight. Gays did not win because they banded together and fought straight people. They won by being normal and non-threatening. They won because TV shows and movies started showing gays as real people who were not so different from everyone else, and who shared the same dreams and aspirations. They also won because we all started recognizing that the many contributions by gays made the world a better place. Gay people were not scary or evil. They were normal. Rather than a threat to the family, they were an asset.

In the past I have written posts where I did not support SSM. Not because I didn’t believe that gays should marry, but because I thought that marriage should not be the domain of government. Instead, I wanted everyone (gay or straight) to have a right to a civil union, and leave marriage to the church. Any church that wanted to could perform marriages for gays, but all the legal rights would be stripped from marriage and transferred to civil unions. We are supposed to keep church and state separate, right? As they like to say, my opinion has evolved. Should those old posts be used against me now?

Maybe Eich’s opinion hasn’t evolved the same way as mine, but I’m still afraid that hounding him out of his job because he is was (and may still be) a heretic is a terrible strategy for the gay rights movement. As one commenter on Sullivan’s site put it:

I don’t spend my money at Chik-fil-A because I don’t like the idea of it being funneled into an anti-equality organizations. I don’t buy Barilla because their CEO explained that they don’t make their products for me, which I assume means they don’t need my money. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty because – well, I never did. But this is a horse of different color. I don’t want to be party to purges and I sure as hell don’t want to give the likes Sarah Palin the satisfaction of an “I told you so” moment. Snap out of it people! We’re winning! We don’t need to do this!



  1. Iron Knee wrote:

    As a side note, I never thought that Brendan Eich was a particularly good choice for CEO of Mozilla. In fact, that’s why a few people quit their jobs at Mozilla when he got the job. But technical reasons were not why he lost the job.

    I wouldn’t mind him going back to CTO.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    Marriage is for procreative potential in Oklahoma. Therefore we can assume if you have had a hysterectomy or vasectomy a man/woman cannot marry in Oklahoma.

    The west coast of this country is way ahead of Oklahomaphobics.

    And you are right about the prejudice against the prejudiced.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 4:40 am | Permalink
  3. Hassan wrote:

    It proves people of faith are justified in their fear of homosexual agenda. They want to submit us in every way and fashion. The powerful media/hollywood used their money and influence for past 20-30 years to first propose tolerance and live and let live attitude for unpopular(gay) things, then they tried and were successful and making the gay popular and people who oppose homosexuality unpopular (worked in last 10 years) and this is the last part where they promote intolerance towards people who hold unpopular belief (those who oppose homosexuality) by ridiculing them, by getting them fired and marginalized etc. And if that fails, then they bring government to force their ideology on us.

    This time they used strangling, money, free markets tactics to get him resigned. To someone else (florist, baker) who do not want to cater to gay wedding and does not fear losing business, they bring government in to force their ideology.

    Indeed these are testing times for believers, may God help us.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink
  4. Hassan wrote:

    BTW, those people who boycotted mozilla, were they also ditching javascript? Now as mozilla has fired Brendan, they can go back and use mozilla products, but they should not use javascript as it is created/designed by him. They can start using vbscript (is that still in play).

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  5. Michael wrote:

    I understand and somewhat share your ambivalence, but I still agree with his ouster due to one fact: He gave money. He actively contributed to a movement whose sole purpose was to deny benefits to same sex couples. It wasn’t that he voted for it or held those views, it was that he actively supported the cause. Granted, the support was peanuts compared to what others give, but it was a material asset.

    And, you’re right, it is the symbolism of the position of CEO. If he was a competent CIO, CTO, CFO, etc., it’s not a problem. We live in a pluralistic society and, as you pointed out, norms change. But CEO is different. As you are well aware, CEO is not just the head of the business, but the CEO is also the face of the organization and the leader of the community. As such, his appointment to CEO created a reasonable cause to call Mozilla’s commitment to inclusiveness into question. As such, this isn’t actually just about him. It is also an indictment of those who appointed him.

    No, Hassan, your fears are not justified. The “homosexual agenda” is about the right of the GLBTQ community to be given the same legal protections as heterosexuals. No one is going to hunt you down and force you into a same-sex marriage. No one is going to require you to denounce your faith. No one is going to strap you down and make you watch Will and Grace reruns (no one is that cruel!). No one is even going to push for you to be fired unless you (a) allow your views to create a hostile work environment or (b) become the symbolic leader of a large community with a supposed commitment to inclusion. The only thing that you are being pushed to do is to treat members of the GLBTQ community as you would treat anyone else, and respect their individual rights and freedoms, as well. It’s not about your faith. It’s about whether or not you use your faith as an excuse to harm others or limit their standing as equals in society.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  6. John G wrote:

    And I find this discussion helped me realize that I usually end up coming down on the side that favors the expansion of rights and choices. True freedom, in other words. Not the “Freedom” the right shouts, which usually means the “freedom” to restrict others (and the “freedom” to participate in the benefits of a society without paying a reasonable share to support that society).

    This guy took his time and treasure to try and keep freedom away from others. I don’t see any indication that he’s learned anything from this except to hide his desire to control others, not to allow others the same freedom they are willing to allow him.

    And I doubt seriously loss of this job will leave him destitute.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink
  7. John G wrote:

    Oh, and while I have no special fondness at all for Alec Baldwin, Andrew Sullivan was one of the loudest voices costing him HIS MSNBC gig when he made a spectacularly stupid remark in a moment of stress. So, one guy says something stupid, another participates in an organized campaign with money and time. Who’s worse?

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    I think it is also ironic that every actual gay person I’ve talked to about this is ambivalent about Eich’s ouster, and the reaction from the gay community in general seems to be discomfort.

    I suspect that many (if not most) of the voices calling for Eich to resign were not from the gay community.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  9. wildwood wrote:

    Shades of Paula Deen perhaps. I was born in 1943 in Arkansas and had a father who was very predjudiced, (he didn’t like blacks, but had black friends at work, go figure), and a mother who was not. I heard the “N” word a lot growing up and I’m pretty sure Paula Deen heard it more than I did. It is not a word I can ever recall using, but my recall isn’t what it used to be either. Her career took a huge hit with the lawsuit, where she truthfully admitted to having used the word. The lawsuit was booted, but her career is still iffy. People can, and do, change. I guess the problem is in finding out if they have changed or are just pretending they’ve changed.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  10. wildwood wrote:

    And in response to my own comments, I realize I used the word “blacks” which is something I’m trying to break myself of. Sorry about that. This would be a good place to have an edit button…she said pulling her foot out of her mouth.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    John G, Sullivan never called for Alec Baldwin to lose his job. See

    There’s a huge difference in criticizing someone for a hypocritical remark, and calling for them to be punished.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  12. ebdoug wrote:

    Reading an Australian author: She used the description “He was of ebony color.” I loved it. Such a beautiful color. Color range in humans is from ebony to chicken white color. I always feel like I look like a plucked chicken.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  13. wildwood wrote:

    EBDOUG you and I must have the same skin color. Just finished slathering on sun block for grandson’s first tournie baseball game. Ebony of color…beautiful description.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  14. Hassan wrote:

    MICHAEL, I am being forced to do business against my will. i should have right to not participate in gay wedding. Gays can marry, divorce, whatever they want, leave me out of it. Is that too much to ask?

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  15. Hassan wrote:

    MICHAEL, also stop using javascript and javascript enabled sites, that will be really brave.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  16. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan, a pointless gesture. First of all, the language he created was called LiveScript, not JavaScript. So I guess you can protest by not using LiveScript (which is long dead). JavaScript was taken over by standards bodies soon after that.

    If you think florists and bakers have the right to refuse to sell their products to gay people, do you also believe they have the right to refuse service to Muslims? Can a restaurant refuse to let you eat there because of your religion or ethnicity? Can a taxi driver refuse to give you a ride, leaving you stranded?

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  17. Hassan wrote:

    Iron Knee, florists and bakers, restaurants, any business should have right not to cater to muslim events, be it muslim marriage, muslim eid party, any muslim/islamic specific events. Although the government should have no right to prefer one over another and must treat all equal.

    But restaurant, florist, baker, should not have right to refuse service to me as an individual.

    I think I been making the same point for a while, I hope it is clear that I am distinguishing individuals versus certain circumstances. If I am in business of selling chemicals, I will sell to all individuals, but if some individual tell me that he is going to use it for wrong purpose, I will refuse. I will sell cake to gays (if in business of bakery), but I will not deliver it to their wedding. I hope you see the difference.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  18. ThatGuy wrote:

    That seems like a really odd line to draw. What if that business suspects you’re bringing flowers or cake to a Muslim wedding? Would that be grounds for refusal of service? How far removed from supporting an event would you need to get before it’s no longer okay to refuse service?

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink
  19. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, yes clear line must be drawn, which is actively catering to the event.

    I make software for living, do these laws mean that if someone comes and wants me to make a software application specific for LGBT (like social forum etc), I cannot refuse, and I must make such software?

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  20. ThatGuy wrote:

    I guess I just don’t understand that kind of bigotry. They’re paying customers, so why wouldn’t you? That’s really no different than refusing to sell to a customer setting up a Muslim, Latino or African American forum just because you don’t like that particular group.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  21. hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, if bankers come to me to make financial application, I refuse them because of the ethical and moral reasons, is that also illegal and bigotry?

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  22. ThatGuy wrote:

    I wouldn’t classify bankers as a demographic in the same sense that I would Muslims or LGBT folks or Latinos, so no. I think you’d be able to make a much stronger argument for refusing service to bankers or the financial industry based on the impact they can have around the world, but refusing them simply because they are bankers also seems silly.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  23. Iron Knee wrote:

    There is well defined law concerning what public businesses must accept customers without discrimination with regards to protected status (race, religion, sex, etc.). Being a banker is not a protected class.

    Hassan is proposing to change that law (which has been developed over a long period of time). Not very likely. I think it would be more likely if he were to propose allowing those businesses the right to separate some services from those that are protected.

    So for example, a bakery (because it is a restaurant) cannot refuse to sell their food products to a customer because they are gay or Muslim. But they might also provide delivery services, which they could separate so those services would not be covered by the law. Then they could refuse to deliver a cake to a gay or Muslim wedding.

    Personally, I think the law as it is now is fine. If a bakery doesn’t want to deliver a cake to a gay wedding, they should separate their delivery business from their food business (separate businesses). Otherwise, we would be falling down a very slippery slope. Besides, nowadays creating a business is trivial.

    Also, Hassan’s analogy about selling chemicals for the wrong purpose is a bad example. As a business you are within your rights to refuse to sell products for the wrong purposes. That is not discriminating against a person (unless the “purpose” you prohibit specifies a protected class of people, like you refuse to sell spray paint to black teenagers because you believe they will use it to deface property). Likewise, a business can refuse to sell to someone because of a non-protected class — like they can (or in some cases must) refuse to sell a weapon or ammo to a convicted felon. Or a restaurant can refuse service to someone not wearing a shirt or shoes.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  24. Hassan wrote:

    Is sexual orientation also protected status?

    “Wrong purposes” is relative, gay marriage is wrong purpose to me. I would not refuse service to gays because who they are, but will refuse services to an event that I deem wrong.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  25. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, what defines demographic? Gays can be white/black/brown in color, male/female in gender, jew/christian/muslim/atheist in faith, bankers/accountants/doctors in profession. Similarly bankers can be white/black/brown, male/female and gay/straight etc.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  26. Iron Knee wrote:

    Yes, sexual orientation is now a protected status. That’s what the Supreme Court ruled when they overturned DOMA.

    I think you’re missing my point. This is well defined law. It doesn’t matter if a gay marriage is a “wrong purpose” for your cakes. You cannot discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

    There are (well defined) exceptions to this. For example, a priest cannot be required to perform a gay marriage.

    I’m not sure why you think it would be so bad if one of your cakes is served at a gay wedding. Seriously?

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  27. Hassan wrote:

    Participating in immorality and promoting it rather than shunning it.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  28. ThatGuy wrote:

    I’d say “protected class” is a better specified term than trying to parse a type of demographic, but the main point is that someone being gay/muslim/white/black/straight/Latino really wouldn’t factor into whether or not I’d sell them cake. That just seems like an absurd level of discrimination. If you don’t agree with the LGBT lifestyle (assuming one can even make that huge a generalization) then don’t take part in it in your personal life. Impeding someone from getting their wedding cake or software just because you take issue with who they love is childish.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  29. Hassan wrote:

    THATGUY, I am not stopping anyone from getting married, nor I am stopping anyone who wants to serve cake at gay wedding.

    I just do not want to be part of it, forcing me is childish.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  30. Michael wrote:

    IK@8, is it really a problem that most of the voices were from outside the LGBTQ community? Isn’t one of the complaints that members of the majority (i.e., those with power) too often stay silent about injustice toward those in the minority? Also, like I said before, I do still have some ambivalence about how this went down, though I still think his ouster was the right thing.

    Hassan@14, it depends. Non-discrimination laws vary from state to state. As I do not know where you live, I cannot say whether or not LGBTQ discrimination by businesses is forbidden. For instance, this came up in regard to the recent Arizona law that would have explicitly made it legal to discriminate. In the discussion of the law, it became apparent that it was unnecessary, because Arizona did NOT have sexuality as a protected class in regard to their non-discrimination statutes.

    IK@26, that is yet to be determined. Windsor was a very limited ruling that struck down DOMA’s interference with state laws about marriage. It did not enshrine sexuality as a protected class for non-discrimination statutes. Granted, that seems like the most likely outcome for future challenges, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Hassan, we’ve had this discussion before, and it’s a tough case. At the larger scale, which is a greater harm to society: Your interpretation tangential participation in another’s actions constitutes sin, or the failure of a minority group to be treated as full and equal members of society? There is harm on both sides, for sure, but I find the latter more grievous. I understand and accept that we will always disagree on this, though.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  31. ThatGuy wrote:

    Which is why I said impeding, not stopping. Part of me wants to say good, don’t serve who you don’t want to serve and your rival businesses will benefit from it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in parts of the country that think the way you do as LGBT folks just trying to go about their lives translates somehow as being force fed some sort of monolithic gay agenda.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  32. Iron Knee wrote:

    The Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a case directly related to this issue. See,0,126351.story

    New Mexico has a law that requires businesses to serve customers and clients without regard to their race, religion, or sexual orientation. The case involved a wedding photographer who refused to take photos of a wedding between two women. The New Mexico supreme court ruled against the photographer, and the US Supreme Court refused to review that ruling.

    Monday, April 7, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  33. Hassan wrote:

    I guess we just have to come up with some creative (protected by law) ways to get around such situations.

    Monday, April 7, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  34. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I’m a little late to this good conversation, but I saw this from IK:

    The case involved a wedding photographer who refused to take photos of a wedding between two women.

    So here’s what I think about this. First of all, why woiuld you want to hire someone who doesn’t want to work for you? Duh, what did they want the worst possible wedding photos ever? Or was it just that wanted to push the issue. If I go to a restaurant that doesn’t serve me well, or doesn’t seem appealing or open to me, I go someplce else. I do believe there is a gay mafia that isn’t interested in actually recieving a service or product, but looking for targets.

    My philosophy also applies to Hassan’s point, why would a gay couple want to contract a muslim baker for the most important cake of their lives? Do they think they’ll get the best cake, or are they just trying to identify a target.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  35. Hassan wrote:

    Good points by Mike Huckabee, can government force a muslim artist to draw the picture of our prophet (which goes against our religion)? He says in that case government will side with Muslims (not sure why he thinks that).

    If Mozilla can fire its CEO as it does not align with values and culture of the organization, why cant a photographer can act according to its values and culture and refuse a service.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  36. Michael wrote:

    IK, yes, I’m familiar with the NM case, but this does not create a protected class. The current effect of the decline to hear the appeal is that NM’s law stands. This does NOT impose new restrictions on states (like AZ) that fail to include sexuality in their non-discrimination statutes. That will only happen when an LGBTQ person sues a state like AZ and ends up with a split decision between appeals courts. Until that happens, protection is still on a state-by-state basis.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  37. Michael wrote:

    Patriotsgt, in the NM case, it wasn’t about trying to “push the issue.” The couple had already made tentative agreements and sent in an initial payment. They had moved on to making additional arrangements when the photographer backed out later.

    Frankly, I find the “identifying a target” accusation to be a condescending straw man. I’ve known plenty of LGBTQ people in my life–many of whom were very outspoken and politically active. Above all else, all they wanted was this: to be treated equally. I’ve never seen an LGBTQ person go out of their way to create some sort of “gotcha” lawsuit. But I have seen them speak up–loudly–when they’ve been treated unjustly. In my view, the “gay mafia” is about as real as the “Welfare queen” pandemic of the ’80s: a convenient fiction for political stump speeches.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  38. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Michael – it was a term Bill Maher recently used when talking about Mozilla

    I personally have gay friends and I’m comfortable with them and invite them regularly to visit my house, and have no problem. I support their right to be treated equally, just like everyone else. But just like there is a fanatic Christian right, there is a fanatic LGBT left. I personally don’t know anyone who belongs to either of those 2 groups.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink