Brief Thoughts on Mozilla CEO

Brendan Eich resigned yesterday as CEO of Mozilla, mostly due to a $1,000 donation he made to support Prop 8 (that’s the anti-gay marriage prop from 2008, for those of you new to the blog).

On Tuesday I’d written a long post with my thoughts on his appointment. My initial reaction on Twitter was that the backlash against him was a bit overblown; I deleted those tweets while I read more reactions and tried to put together a longer, more thoughtful post.

And now that’s irrelevant. But here’s the bit that I think still matters: “Me, I think people can change. I have no idea whether he regrets the donation on more than a political level…” I was all for giving him the benefit of the doubt; I don’t believe people should have to wear a scarlet ‘8’ around for the rest of their lives because of a donation six years ago. But in this interview he gave on the 1st, he repeatedly refuses to address the issue and it’s clear that his stance hasn’t changed. How hard would it have been for him to say, “Six years ago I wasn’t as educated as I am now and my views are evolving thanks to the wonderful diverse workplace I now lead.”? How hard would it be for him to make some gesture of support to the gay community?

Apparently harder than resigning. He’s made a choice, and there are already right-wing screech machines out there crying about how this good man was forced to resign by the gay political correctness police (or the “Obama IRS”–never mind that this donation was actually publicized two years ago and was made public five years ago by California law). But Eich had ample opportunity to discuss his views once it was clear that they were important to the community, and he kept hiding behind the shield of privacy. Read that Guardian interview, and the picture you get is not of someone who might have changed his mind, but someone who insists that everyone else is wrong about his beliefs being irrelevant.

Here’s the thing: I do believe that in most cases, your political beliefs and personal political actions should be irrelevant to your job. But there was a very real worry raised in this case that his stewardship would threaten Mozilla’s culture of inclusiveness, and when your personal beliefs conflict so strongly and visibly with the company you’re leading, you need to address it. You can’t just hide behind “it’s a personal matter.”

I wish he’d been able to make some sort of gesture. I’m actually kind of sad that he resigned, because all that’s doing is polarizing sides again. I think the way to approach the anti-gay-marriage losers (they lost, at least in California) is by changing their minds through dialogue and showing them that their world can include gay marriage. It works in some cases.

But if they’re not open to that, then fuck ’em. Good riddance.

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