A leading homosexual-rights figure and advocate of same-sex marriage is chastising his own movement for forcing the resignation of a prominent Silicon Valley executive who contributed to the California voter initiative to protect traditional marriage
He shot back with particularly pointed words for advocates of same-sex marriage who insisted Eich could have kept his job if only he would have apologized for making a “mistake.”
“This is a repugnantly illiberal sentiment. It is also unbelievably stupid for the gay-rights movement,” Sullivan wrote.
“You want to squander the real gains we have made by argument and engagement by becoming just as intolerant of others’ views as the Christianists? You’ve just found a great way to do this. It’s a bad, self-inflicted blow. And all of us will come to regret it.”
Mozilla announced Thursday that Eich, who was hired as CEO just two weeks ago, will resign after it was discovered he made a $1,000 contribution to the Proposition 8 ballot initiative in 2008.
Sullivan, a British born and raised intellectual, is a former editor for The Atlantic and The New Republic magazines.
Although he describes himself as a conservative in the tradition of 18th century Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, Sullivan is a strong advocate of same-sex marriage and holds many other views embraced by the left.
Noting that the names of the people who contributed to Prop. 8 along with Eich are public, Slate.com’s William Saleton suggest with tongue in check that rights activists must now force the remaining 35,000 from their jobs.
“If we’re serious about taking down corporate officers who supported Proposition 8, and boycotting employers who promote them, we’d better get cracking on the rest of the list,” Saletan wrote. “Otherwise, perhaps we should put down the pitchforks.”
Radio host Tammy Bruce, who describes herself as a “gay” conservative, tweeted her disgust.
“Hi @mozilla, I’m a gay woman who is appalled that you caved to the Gay Gestapo. So who else will be pressured to leave for not conforming?”
‘We didn’t act like you’d expect’
Sullivan wrote, referring to Eich, the “guy who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000 has just been scalped by some gay activists.”
The move came after the dating site OKCupid called for Eich’s resignation.
Mozilla responded with corporate statements reassuring the public of its continued “LGBT inclusivity” since Eich’s hiring.
On Thursday, however, executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed Eich’s resignation with an apology for not pushing him out sooner after his donation was revealed.
“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” Baker said. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”
Sullivan unleashed his sarcastic wit.
“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”
Victory for free speech?
Pushing back against Sullivan and Saletan, London Guardian columnist James Ball insisted Eich was not a victim of ‘hounding” from the “gay”-rights community, calling his resignation, instead, a victory for freedom of expression.”
Ball said “the ouster of a founder and CEO by his own people, at a foundation based on open and equal expression, should be the new textbook example of the system working exactly as it should.”
“Eich is free to believe what he wants, and same-sex marriage remains a divisive issue in America,” Ball wrote. “But to gay people and their allies, supporting an outright ban on equal marriage is concerning: to many, it appears to say same-sex love is lesser than heterosexual love. Given most gay people feel they had no choice over their orientation, that message becomes in effect a statement that gay people aren’t the equals of their heterosexual counterparts.”
But Sullivan, in a response to critics of his stance, affirmed that Mozilla has a constitutional right “to purge a CEO because of his incorrect political views.”
“Of course Eich was not stripped of his First Amendment rights,” he wrote. “I’d fight till my last breath for Mozilla to retain that right. What I’m concerned with is the substantive reason for purging him. When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line.”
No record of discrimination
Saletan noted Mozilla chairwoman Baker confirmed there is no record of Eich ever discriminating against homosexual employees.
“I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” Baker said.
Saletan pointed out that last week, Eich pledged 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.”
“You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products,” he said.
Eich said Mozilla’s “inclusive health benefits policies will not regress in any way.”
“And I will not tolerate behavior among community members that violates our Community Participation Guidelines or (for employees) our inclusive and non-discriminatory employment policies.”
Business Insider’s Jim Edward commented that at “the heart of the move is a fundamental contradiction.”
“Eich’s foes disapproved of Eich’s intolerance for LGBT people. But in the end they could not tolerate Eich’s opinions, which for years he kept private and, by all accounts, did not bring into the workplace.”
In the New York Times, Nick Bilton and Noam Cohen wrote that in the Silicon Valley, “where personal quirks and even antisocial personalities are tolerated as long as you are building new products and making money, a socially conservative viewpoint may be one trait you have to keep to yourself.”
They said Eich’s departure “highlights the growing potency of gay-rights advocates in an area that, just a decade ago, seemed all but walled off to their influence: the boardrooms of major corporations.”