Welcome to the year 2014 where even your actions of six years ago have consequences, especially if you are on the wrong side of history.
On March 24th, Mozilla named Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich the new CEO for the tech-based company best known for its cloud services as well as its Firefox operating system and web browser. Initially, the hire did not make much news as Eich had been with the company since 1999 and it was well-known that he was a strong candidate to replace Jay Sullivan, who was acting CEO during the executive search. However, things quickly went downhill as Eich’s past began to make headline news.
It all started last Friday when The Wall Street Journal reported that three of Mozilla’s six executive board members resigned over the promotion of Eich. As if those resignations weren’t bad enough, several hundred Mozilla employees took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the Eich selection. For the majority of employees, their main concern was the fact that Eich had donated $1,000 for Prop 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment that was passed in California making gay marriage illegal in the state that was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. According to California state law, it is legal to provide public information on anyone who donates more than $100 to a ballot measure which made Eich’s donation a matter of public record.
Then on Monday, dating website OKCupid posted the following message on its homepage:
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’a s 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 misfortune 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:
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With pressure mounting, Eich responded in a blog post where he expressed his intentions to ensure that Mozilla would be a welcoming company for people from all walks of life. Eich’s blog stated that he was “committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.” However, nowhere on the blog did it mention Eich’s support of prop 8, nor did it offer any sense of remorse that Eich might have felt for his previous support of the ballot measure. When all was said and done, Eich was left with only one option.
On Friday, Brendan Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla.
What the episode of Brendan Eich tells us is that a person’s consequences have actions, even if those actions occurred many years ago. Public opinion is now clearly on the side of supporting gay marriage and opponents of the movement are beginning to realize they are on the wrong side of history. The public outcry of Mozilla’s three executive board members, the Mozilla employees that took to Twitter, the OKCupid website, and the public at large was enough to oust Eich from his position as ECO after less than two weeks on the job. Because Eich’s donation was of public record and he was unable to take responsibility for his donation, Mozilla had no choice but to ask him to resign from his position.
As the nation slowly moves toward marriage equality it is examples like these that reinforce how far the nation has come. Social media has become and will continue to be a powerful voice for those in favor of marriage equality. For people like Brendan Eich, ignorance is no longer an excuse for supporting policies that deny Americans equal protection under the law. In the year 2014, those that openly oppose marriage equality are slowly and steadily becoming pariahs in today’s open and accepting society.
Unfortunately for Brendan Eich, he just learned this lesson the hard way.