This opinion piece is on current events, and given the slow update nature of my blog, I’ll give it some context before going forward.
It’s worth noting that I’m a complete outsider to all this; I don’t work and haven’t worked at Mozilla, and I don’t have close ties with anyone who did or does.
In March 2008, Eich donated $1,000 in support of California Proposition 8, which goal was to eliminate same-sex couples’ marriage rights. Under California state law, this donation became part of the public record. Donors had to list their employer, so Brendan Eich’s donation was listed under his name, with Mozilla listed as his employer.
In 2011, someone noticed that his name and “Mozilla” were on that public record, and publicized it. This apparently needed clarification, because some people must’ve thought this donation was actually backed/condoned by Mozilla. (Spoilers: It wasn’t.)
On March 24th, 2014, it was announced that Brendan was appointed the CEO position at Mozilla Corporation. The public suddenly brought up his 2008 donation again, and a media firestorm ensued. Some Mozilla Foundation employees requested Eich to step down via Twitter, and the tech press picked up on this.
Several blog posts, both by Mozilla and Eich personally, were made, clarifying that Mozilla is an inclusive and diverse company, and in full support of LGBT (and then some) equal rights. Brendan clarified that any convictions conflicting with this are always left at the door before entering the Mozilla office.
Still, the firestorm raged on. OkCupid, possibly the most popular dating website, put up a note on their homepage for all Firefox users, which ended in requesting they use a different web browser. They later took this down again, probably when they realised that the 2008 donation was private, and that Mozilla does not condone it. This blog post by Mozilla probably helped with that.
On April third, Mozilla’s blog announced that Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO. He was not pressured into this, but felt that the whole firestorm was very much a detriment to what he and Mozilla were trying to accomplish. As far as I know, he has severed all financial ties with Mozilla, remaining only the manager of a number of bits of source code.
My opinions on the donation
I believe that all humans should be able to live their lives in a way that brings them fulfilment and happiness, insofar as this does not impede on other humans’ right to the same.
That is really all there is to it, and I cannot think of any sensible exceptions to this rule. Throughout history there has been (and is) discrimination against women, against people of certain ethnic groups, against people of certain sexual orientation, against people of certain gender identity, against people with disabilities, and so on, and so forth.
It pains me to see that getting equal rights to everyone across the globe is a very slow and gradual process, simply because it’s hard to get it through to everyone that we are all people, all deserving of the same rights, regardless of our differences.
I’m sure you can see at this point that I am wholeheartedly opposed to a proposition with the sole aim of excluding a group of people from a right that others can take for granted. To me, marriage is a simple concept: people who love one another get to make their bond an official one, recognised by law. I consider it very arbitrary to exclude same-sex couples from this.
By paying money into the campaign to forbid same-sex marriage, Brendan helped spread the idea that human rights are not to be equal for everyone. His motivation for this is unbeknownst to me. I cannot think of rational reason for it, so I can only assume that there may be traditionalist motivations behind it. I don’t consider those valid reasons, and I can only conclude the matter was not given good, honest, thought.
I think this donation was fully against progress for humanity, so the fact it was made saddens me. It saddens me that Eich, or anyone holds these views. I hope that sooner rather than later, baseless opposition to any equal rights can be purged from the global mindset.
Accelerating equal rights
Over and over again, when someone holds views opposed to equal rights, the response is to boycott and call them out on how much of a bigot they are; generally a bunch of name-calling and aggression. The sadly ironic part of this behavior is the definition of a bigot:
One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
—The Free Dictionary, bigot
I know, I know, “sorry for being intolerant of someone’s intolerance.”
When you’re calling someone out on how they are basically a “bad person” though, do you think this will change their mind on the issue? Will they just consider it somewhat along the lines of “Hm, a large number of people are pointing out I’m a bigot, I guess maybe dudes marrying dudes and girls marrying girls is all right”?
I don’t think so. Wouldn’t it be better to think of ways to show them a new viewpoint to consider? Encourage them to approach an issue from a new angle, find (valid!) analogies they can identify with, and present those. Have people affected talk to them about their lives, and about their hopes and dreams.
To return to the term “bigot”: As seen in the definition above, a bigot is intolerant. Given Mozilla’s guidelines on inclusiveness and diversity:
(i) Inclusion and Diversity
The Mozilla Project welcomes and encourages participation by everyone. It doesn’t matter how you identify yourself or how others perceive you: we welcome you. We welcome contributions from everyone as long as they interact constructively with our community, including, but not limited to people of varied age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views.
Mozilla-based activities should be inclusive and should support such diversity.
Some Mozillians may identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Mozilla. When this is the case:
- (a) support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Mozilla activities.
- (b) support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities should not be expressed in Mozilla spaces.
- (c) when if (a) and (b) are met, other Mozillians should treat this as a private matter, not a Mozilla issue.
…you can see that Brendan must’ve been anything but intolerant, working at Mozilla for all these years. In an interview with CNET, he pointed out several times that any opposing convictions are left at the door.
If Eich truly were a bigot, I don’t think he could really stand working at a company like Mozilla. I think he would try to force his views into the company policy.
What this has to do with his position at Mozilla
All we really know about Brendan Eich’s “intolerance” is that, in 2008, he was rather convinced of the idea that same-sex marriages shouldn’t be a thing.
There has never been evidence of him being discriminatory towards anyone in same-sex relations inside Mozilla. As far as I’m aware, he has been doing a splendid job as CTO, without complaints on his professional behavior from anyone.
You could make the argument that as a CEO, he could alter the guidelines for diversity and inclusiveness to start “pushing his agenda”, but this would be wild, baseless speculation. I don’t think you nor I for a moment believe that Mozilla’s board would let anything like that happen. That said, I really don’t get the idea that Eich would have any urge to do anything like that in the first place. For 16 years or so, he has worked on the mission of making the web more open, and to promote innovation.
As CEO, he was looking forward to really getting Firefox OS out there on mobiles, and I was personally excited to see what would happen with that project.
I remain convinced that his donation to proposition 8 in 2008 never made any difference in his professionalism at Mozilla. It is a tragedy that the media firestorm has forced him to sever ties with what can only be called his life’s achievement.