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Mozilla CEO Resigns Over Donation to Prop. 8 Campaign

| April 3, 2014
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After a controversy erupted over his 2008 contribution to the Proposition 8 campaign, Brendan Eich has resigned as the CEO of Mozilla, the nonprofit company announced in a blog post today. Mozilla is best known for its web browser, Firefox.

Brendan Eich (Mozilla)

Brendan Eich (Mozilla)

“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” wrote Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of the Mountain View company. “We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: It’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.”

Later in the post, she wrote, “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”

“Times changed and he got on the wrong side of history,” says Kara Swisher, an executive editor for the tech blog Re/code. “While it may have been relatively acceptable in 2008, in today’s world, with the changes that are going on, I think a lot of the employees felt they didn’t want to work for someone who hadn’t changed his beliefs in that time period.”

Eich, who is a co-founder of Mozilla and the creator of JavaScript, was appointed CEO just 11 days ago. Outrage over his contribution first took hold on Twitter in 2012.

A couple of days after he took the Mozilla reins, he wrote a blog post in which he affirmed Mozilla’s “commitment to equality in everything we do,” and to work with “LGBT communities and allies.” He wrote:

You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products. Mozilla’s inclusive health benefits policies will not regress in any way. And I will not tolerate behavior among community members that violates our Community Participation Guidelines or (for employees) our inclusive and non-discriminatory employment policies.

Mozilla then posted a statement saying it supports LGBT equality.

But the dating website OkCupid used Firefox against the company, when early this week it started flashing users who accessed its site through Firefox the following message:

Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid.

Eich subsequently gave an interview to CNET in which he said he was sorry his donation had “caused pain.”

“I saw that in friends’ eyes, (friends) who are LGBT. I saw that in 2012. I am sorry for causing that pain,” he said.

But he refused to back away from his previous position:

If you had the opportunity to donate to a Proposition 8 cause today, would you do so?

Eich: I hadn’t thought about that. It seems that’s a dead issue. I don’t want to answer hypotheticals. Separating personal beliefs here is the real key here. The threat we’re facing isn’t to me or my reputation, it’s to Mozilla.

You haven’t really explicitly laid it out, so I’ll just ask you: how do you feel gay-marriage rights? How did you feel about it in 2008, and how do you feel about it today?

Eich: I prefer not to talk about my beliefs. One of the things about my principles of inclusiveness is not just that you leave it at the door, but that you don’t require others to put targets on themselves by labeling their beliefs, because that will present problems and will be seen as divisive.

OKCupid told ABC News that it ended its boycott Wednesday. It’s unclear what role, if any, Eich will now play at Mozilla. “What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed,” Baker wrote today.

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  • http://unitedstatesofmotherhood.com ScoutsHonor

    The problem isn’t his beliefs (although I disagree with those beliefs) but donating money and acting on those beliefs to infringe on other’s beliefs in the form of a law. That is intolerance.

    I also believe you could look at it from a different perspective. What if this CEO said that only marriage between Catholics men and women (yes, I know ridiculous) were right and donated to a law to dissolve all marriages unless Catholic? Would you want to work for him as a Mormon or atheist or Jew or Muslim knowing how little he thought of your beliefs?

    In the end a simple apology and a statement in retrospect, he would not donate again would have solved this PR nightmare. However he chose to hem and haw and stick with his principles and thus he must also deal with the repercussions.