Firefox defends CEO who opposes same-sex marriage

firefox logoDevelopers are abandoning their support of Firefox, the world’s second-most popular internet browser, from theMozilla Foundation, following the appointment of co-founder Brendan Eich as the company’s new CEO. Eich was Mozilla’s CTO and helped co-found the company in 1998. However, gay rights groups uncovered personal donations from Eich, totaling $1,000, in support of California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state.

With the announcement that Eich would assume the top position at Mozilla, developers of apps and extensions for Firefox have started pulling support in protest against Eich’s opposition to equal marriage. App developer Hampton Catlin, CEO of Rarebit, stated in a blog post that he and his partner — also a developer — were boycotting all Firefox projects.

“Today we were shocked to read that Brendan Eich has been appointed Mozilla CEO,” he wrote. “As a gay couple who were unable to get married in California until recently, we morally cannot support a Foundation that would not only leave someone with hateful views in power, but will give them a promotion and put them in charge of the entire organization.”

Mozilla released a statement Tuesday affirming the company’s LGBT-friendly policies, including extending spousal benefits to same-sex partners:

“Mozilla has always been deeply committed to honoring diversity in sexual orientation and beliefs within our staff and community, across all the project’s activities. One concrete example of this is in our health benefit policies. Mozilla provides the same level of benefits and advantages to domestic partners as we do to married couples across the United States, even in states where it is not mandated. For those who choose life insurance, voluntary spouse coverage extends to domestic partners, including same-sex couples. With thousands of people spanning many countries and cultures, diversity is core to who we are, and we’re united in our mission to keep the Web open and accessible for everyone.”

Mozilla’s Ediucation Lead Christie Koehler took to her personal blog to defend the company, though she doesn’t agree with Eich’s personal views.

“Like a lot of people, I was disappointed when I found out that Brendan had donated to the anti-marriage equality Prop. 8 campaign in California,” she wrote. “It’s hard for me to think of a scenario where someone could donate to that campaign without feeling that queer folks are less deserving of basic rights. It frustrates me when people use their economic power to further enshrine and institutionalize discrimination.”

“At the same time, many Mozillians are themselves advocates for human rights, animal rights, prison abolition, marriage equality, racial equality, etc,” she continued. “To be clear, I’m personally disappointed about Brendan’s donation. However, aside from how it affected me emotionally, I have nothing to indicate that it’s materially hurt my work within the Mozilla community or as a Mozilla employee… We didn’t have an explicit code of conduct when I started, but adopted the guidelines for participation within my first year. Progress might be slow, but it’s being made. And I don’t see Brendan standing in the way of that.”

Eich defended his donation on his personal blog in 2012, stating “he donation [did] not constitute evidence of animosity” and that those opposing his donation were “not providing a reasoned argument”. Eich concluded by saying “I do not insist that anyone agree with me on a great many things, including political issues, and I refrain from putting my personal beliefs in others’ way in all matters Mozilla, JS, and Web. I hope for the same in return.”

For those concerned about using Firefox, there are plenty of other options, including Internet Explorer and Chrome, from Microsoft and Google respectively. Both companies have long supported same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, a stance which will likely benefit them should any Firefox users feel incensed enough to quit the browser. Whatever Mozilla’s new CEO thinks of same-sex marriage, the implications could be far-reaching should more developers support the idea of boycotting the company. While Eich is unlikely to be ousted from his position due to the backlash, it remains to be seen if he will offer any public statement personally, or whether Mozilla will offer an explanation beyond its terse statement.

 
Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's assistant editor and covers cars, technology, and gaming. He is usually found with a controller in one hand and a smartphone in the other, and can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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