When a high-tech CEO was forced to resign because he supported traditional marriage, there was a backlash. But not from the folks you would have expected. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
Without question, Brendan Eich is one of the people who made possible the globally-connected world we take for granted. As the New York Times put it, Eich “has helped develop some of the web’s most important technologies.”
In addition, he was the co-founder of Mozilla, a non-profit whose Web browser, Firefox, broke Microsoft’s stranglehold on the browser market.
Yet, none of this mattered to the folks at Mozilla, who recently forced him to resign two weeks after he became its CEO.
His offense? Supporting traditional marriage.
Specifically, it was a $1,000 contribution he made to the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign in California.
Upon hearing about his promotion to CEO, OKCupid, a dating site, issued a statement accusing Eich and people who agree with him of seeking to “deny love and instead enforce misery, shame and frustration.” It added that “we would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid.”
Inside of Mozilla, the response was mixed: some employees, including gay ones, disagreed with Eich’s position but defended his hire as an expression of the openness that Mozilla regarded as one of the highest values. Others, including application developers, threatened to stop working with Mozilla if the hire stood.
After trying to explain himself and vowing to remain on the job, Eich succumbed to the inevitable and resigned.
Then something odd happened: Many prominent gay marriage supporters were appalled at what happened and didn’t hesitate to say so. Andrew Sullivan, who was probably the first major figure to champion same-sex marriage, called the reaction to Eich’s views “a repugnantly illiberal sentiment.” He also called it an “unbelievably stupid” and “bad, self-inflicted blow” for the gay-rights movement, one that it may come to regret.
Bill Maher on his HBO program, “Real Time,” said “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked.”
It’s a measure of how distasteful some gay-marriage supporters found Eich’s treatment that Maher of all people felt free to voice that sentiment.
As Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, another gay-marriage supporter, put it, “This is a mess.”
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