The chief executive of Mozilla resigned yesterday amid protests over his $1,000 donation in support of California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Brendan Eich’s 2008 donation was first revealed two years ago while he was serving in a senior role at Mozilla. But it was after his appointment as CEO last month that half of Mozilla’s board quit and company employees publicly voiced their disapproval. Others launched a public campaign seeking his ouster.
In the wake of yesterday’s news, Andrew Sullivan, a leading advocate for redefining marriage, said the episode “should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.”
Heritage Foundation scholars weighed in with their reaction.
Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society, warned that “bullies” were poisoning democratic discourse by attacking anyone who doesn’t share their view:
The outrageous treatment of Eich is the result of one private, personal campaign contribution to support marriage as a male-female union, a view affirmed at the time by President Barack Obama, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, and countless other prominent officials. After all, Prop 8 passed with the support of 7 million California voters.
So was President Obama a bigot back when he supported marriage as the union of a man and woman? And is characterizing political disagreement on this issue—no matter how thoughtfully expressed—as hate speech really the way to find common ground and peaceful co-existence?
Sure, the employees of Mozilla—which makes Firefox, the popular Internet browser—have the right to protest a CEO they dislike, for whatever reason. But are they treating their fellow citizens with whom they disagree civilly? Must every political disagreement be a capital case regarding the right to stand in civil society?
When Obama “evolved” on the issue just over a year ago, he insisted that the debate about marriage was legitimate. He said there are people of goodwill on both sides.
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow, said the episode was an example of how the disclosure of political contributions served as a means to intimidate and harass an individual for his personal views:
Before Eich resigned, he pointed out that he had kept his personal beliefs out of Mozilla and that they were not relevant to his job as CEO. He was exactly right, although that did not prevent him from resigning.
In a startling display of irony that was obviously lost on her, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, who approved of Eich’s resignation, said it was necessary because “preserving Mozilla’s integrity was paramount.” She seems not to recognize that forcing a founder of the company to resign because of his personal beliefs that have nothing to do with his qualifications as a corporate officer is the exact opposite of “integrity.”
Eich is certainly not alone in his predicament. As the Heritage Foundation previously pointed out, other supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, death threats, and anti-religious bigotry. All committed by individuals claiming they are simply trying to gain “acceptance” and who complain about the supposed intolerance of society over their lifestyle.