Brendan Eich: The shaming of a gay-marriage opponent
The CEO of Mozilla resigned under duress over a $1,000 donation in support of the 2008 ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California.
With the legalization of gay marriage sweeping the nation, said Charles C.W. Cooke in NationalReview.com, you might think that those who fought so hard for the cause would be feeling magnanimous. Instead, they’re busy “bludgeoning their enemies” into groveling submission. The latest to feel the gay-marriage lobby’s wrath is tech wizard Brendan Eich, who last week resigned under duress as CEO of Mozilla, the firm behind the Firefox Web browser. Eich’s departure came after a campaign by progressive activists and the OkCupid dating website, which had urged its users to boycott Firefox. Eich’s crime? Six years ago, he donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California. Belief in traditional marriage “was no extreme mind-set” at the time, said Katrina Trinko in USA Today. In fact, 52 percent of California’s electorate shared Eich’s opposition to gay marriage that year, as did such noted homophobes as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a majority of Congress, and most Americans. Many people’s views have since “evolved,” but when did traditional beliefs become impermissible heresy? In America, we work alongside people with whom we disagree, rather than demand that they be fired and “banished from polite society.”
Eich is hardly a victim here, said Mary Hamilton in TheGuardian.com. When he donated to the Proposition 8 campaign, he helped bring about the invalidation of hundreds of same-sex marriages, causing great pain to those couples. So who bullied who? Yes, Eich has the right to freedom of speech, but gay Californians and their supporters also exercised their freedom of speech by calling for a boycott of Mozilla, which wisely let him step down. Generally speaking, a person’s political views shouldn’t affect his or her employment, said Will Oremus in Slate.com, but opposing gay marriage in modern America isn’t just another political view. “It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others,” which makes Eich as much of a problem for Mozilla as if he’d taken a stand against interracial marriage.
Conservatives may find this both shocking and galling, said Tim Teeman in TheDailyBeast.com, but the shame surrounding homosexuality “has positively shifted from those who are gay to those who are anti-gay.” Court after court has found that traditional arguments against gay marriage are “irrational and absurd,” rooted in bigotry. Now that gay people see that equality is finally within reach, it’s only natural that “anger flares when an example like Eich and Mozilla presents itself.” Eich wasn’t bullied out of his job—“he was shamed out of it.” A CEO “isn’t just any employee,” said Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times. “He or she is the face of the company.” In Silicon Valley, where progressive politics are the norm and the competition for talented employees is intense, Eich had become a liability for Mozilla, and had to go.
As a longtime advocate of gay marriage, I see the Eich episode as a defeat, not a victory, for our cause, said Andrew Sullivan in Dish.AndrewSullivan.com. We’ve made such rapid progress because we’ve patiently persuaded our fellow Americans of our humanity, and of our vision of a more “tolerant and diverse society.” Now that we’re winning the debate, it’s wrong to try to silence and punish those who still disagree—some of whom do so out of sincere religious conviction. If we demand the holdouts be placed in the stocks for public shaming, it will make us “no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”