After Mozilla appointed Brendan Eich, a known supporter of Prop8 (aka the ‘gays can’t marry in CA!’ law), my friend Nacin posted this recently on twitter:
Mozilla has always been deeply committed to diversity. One concrete example promoting our anti-gay founder to CEO.
Since that time, Eich has stepped down. Or been fired. It’s confusing. I thought for a long time about how that made me feel, him being anti-gay-marriage and all that, and I decided that I’m okay with the fact that he, a person, is against my right to marry.
Hear me out!
I’m totally, 100%, will fight to the death, okay with you being anti-gay personally. You hate the gay? That’s fine. I respect your choice to not like things. We’ll never be friends if you’re opposed to, say, gay marriage, but we’re all different.
What does this change about us, besides our possibility for friendship? Well for one I wouldn’t work for Mozilla as an employee while Eich was in charge. It’s the same reason I could never consider working for GoDaddy while Bob Parsons was in charge. He hunts elephants. I spend a lot of time and money raising money to save elephants. We’re clearly in opposition, and I refuse to work for a company that makes me sell my soul for money. I’d rather be broke. Yes, that means if I did work for the company, I’d tell them “It’s him or me.” And I’d be public about it. But that’s me.
I don’t work for them. So how does it impact me?
Well for one it means I was concerned about how his power will be abused. Everyone abuses power to some degree, I feel, so I do expect it. If he used his power to intentionally hurt other people, though, we would have a problem. If he used his power to push his personal agenda on others, we would have a problem.
But if instead he sat in his office and does whatever he does, and privately thought “Goddamn queers.” to himself, and managed to keep that feeling totally out of his decisions for the company and the products? I don’t have a problem.
Alas, that isn’t the whole story. Brendan Eich donated money to Prop. 8 (the anti-gay marriage law in California, that was later deemed unconstitutional). Is he the guy I’d want to stand and represent my company? Is he the guy I’d want to represent Open Source? No, he’s not. I would (probably) quit, and I would ask my coworkers to join me or demand his ouster, because I think he would harm my work and efforts.
That’s the problem with being a figure in a community, Eich. And that’s probably why you aren’t the CEO anymore. We’re not private people. I hate it too. I’m sad Mozilla didn’t consider that when they voted him in, and I’m sad their statement amounted to “We give the gays health bennies, so it’s okay!” Eich can believe what he wants to, though, and he has to live with what that will do to his career.
If you hate the gay, that’s fine, but you won’t be a part of my life, and a lot of other peoples. I know some people who disagree with me about religion and marriage and all sorts of things. Most of them haven’t cut me out of their lives because we understand that everyone comes from different places, and none of us want to hurt other people.
It’s all intent. Seeing all the fuss over Brendan Eich, all the people who quit and abstained and otherwise spoke out against his appointment tells me that the spirit of Open Source and the heart of it, openness, is still strong. He can believe what he wants to, he can fund who he wants, and he’s done the right start by saying he’s going to be the sort of person who will be fair to everyone.
In his blog post, Inclusiveness at Mozilla, Eich said this:
I am 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.
And he asked for time to show, not tell.
I want to believe that someone who is anti-gay marriage can be as fair to the world as someone who is pro-gay marriage. But I also think that his life is no longer (if it ever was) private, and he should be judged on his actions. As a non-directly impacted outsider, who only knows what’s been said, I give him time to prove he can be what he says. To prove he can change. To prove he’s not defined by one thing alone. To forgive when, and if, a person can change.
We’ll never find out if that’s possible for him, though. On April 3rd he stepped down as CEO.