Daily Dispatches
Brendan Eich
Wikimedia
Brendan Eich

Gay rights groups force Mozilla CEO to resign

Marriage

UPDATE (April 3, 5:35 p.m. EDT): Brendan Eich stepped down from his post as Mozilla's CEO today after gay rights groups lambasted the company for promoting a leader who supports traditional marriage.

In a statement posted online, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker said Eich was stepping down for the good of the company, which he co-founded. She also apologized for promoting him from his position as chief technology officer in the first place. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act,” she wrote. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

EARLIER STORY (April 1): Tech company Mozilla’s new CEO won’t have his job for long, if same-sex marriage supporters have anything to say about it.

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The company, which created the popular web browser Firefox, promoted Brendan Eich from chief technology officer to its top leadership position on March 24. He’s certainly qualified for the job. Eich co-founded Mozilla and invented JavaScript, one of the web’s most ubiquitous programming languages.

But Eich also supports traditional marriage, and that, his detractors say, is unforgivable.

In 2008, Eich gave $1,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. A lower court ruling struck down the amendment, and the U.S. Supreme Court left that decision place last year. Eich’s contribution was publicly reported then and he faced some criticism for his stance. 

But his promotion to CEO last week whipped the old criticism into a firestorm. 

Half of Mozilla Foundation’s six board members quit in protest, according to The Wall Street Journal, and thousands have complained on Twitter, calling for Eich to step down.

But the real kicker came yesterday, when New York-based dating service OkCupid.com replaced its usual home page for visitors using the Firefox browser. 

“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user,” the new page read. “Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.” It then explained Eich’s views, as it understood them, and asked users to access OkCupid with a different browser. It also claimed that 8 percent of OkCupid’s users are homosexual: “We’ve devoted the last 10 years to bringing people—all people—together. … Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

At the time of this writing, the message remains in place.

OkCupid President Christian Rudder said he and the firm’s three other co-founders decided to post the message after discussing Eich’s appointment over the weekend. 

“We don’t think this was the right thing for people to donate money to, and this is someone we do business with, so we decided to take action,” Rudder said.

So far, Mozilla is standing by its new leader. Eich acknowledged the controversy in a blog post two days after his appointment was announced. He pledged his commitment to diversity and inclusion and promised to make Mozilla a welcoming place for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. “I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything,” he said. “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 responded yesterday with an emailed statement saying the company supports equality for all, including marriage equality for gay couples. It remains to be seen whether that support for equality extends to people who disagree.

Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a student at Patrick Henry College. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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