Gay Marriage

Mozilla CEO's Resignation Over Donation to Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign Sparks Commentary and Myth

Andrew Sullivan says Eich was "a victim of the free market," some conservative commentators have falsely been saying the donation information was obtained thanks to an IRS leak

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Thursday it was announced that Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich would be resigning after only a few days on the job in the wake of employees drawing attention to the fact that he donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8, the Californian anti-gay marriage ballot initiative in 2008. Proposition 8 did pass but was ruled invalid by the Supreme Court.

After it was revealed last week that Eich had made the donation OkCupid asked its users who use Firefox, the web browser developed by Mozilla, to consider using other software.

Some have claimed that Eich's donation in support of Proposition 8 is only public because of an IRS leak. In fact, the list of people who donated money in the fight for and against Proposition 8 has always been public and can be searched on the Los Angeles Times' website, as Reason's Scott Shackford explains:

Two days ago, an anonymous tech industry worker wrote a piece about the outrage against Eich at First Things, a journal produced by nonprofit Institute on Religion and Public Life. The anonymous worker stated that Eich's donation came to light in 2012, "after the Internal Revenue Service leaked a copy of the National Organization for Marriage's 2008 tax return to a gay-advocacy group." This information is now being attached and included in coverage on other conservative blogs as well.

But it's not accurate. The names of all donors in the Proposition 8 battle, for and against, have always been public information, even before the election. The Los Angeles Times has a searchable database here. Eich's name is on it (as is mine—I gave $100 in opposition and ultimately regretted it after seeing the horrible, useless ads they put together to fight Prop. 8). The information came from the California secretary of state's office, not some IRS leak. This database is not dated, but they were available and were online at some media outlets prior to the 2008 vote.

In an article for TIME magazine Reason's Nick Gillespie argues that Eich's resignation is an example of businesses responding to market signals:

Whether you care about gay marriage or politically correct web experiences, Eich's resignation shows how businesses respond to market signals. "Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech," writes Mitchell Baker, the organization's executive chairwoman, in announcing Eich's stepping down. "And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard."

Just as the Internet has empowered consumers to find cheaper prices, more-extensive reviews, and a wider variety of goods than ever before, it's also made it easier for them to call out companies for all sorts of dastardly actions, screw-ups, and problems. I like that OKCupid's intervention wasn't a call for government action to limit people's choices or ban something. Indeed, OKCupid didn't even block Firefox users from its site — rather, it politely asked them to consider getting to the site via a different browser.

Over at The Dish Andrew Sullivan says that Eich's resignation highlights a degree of fanaticism in the gay rights movement similar to that seen in the religious right:

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.

In another post Sullivan wrote Eich was "a victim of the free market":

He did not understand that in order to be a CEO of a company, you have to renounce your heresy! There is only one permissible opinion at Mozilla, and all dissidents must be purged! Yep, that's left-liberal tolerance in a nut-shell. No, he wasn't a victim of government censorship or intimidation. He was a victim of the free market in which people can choose to express their opinions by boycotts, free speech and the like. He still has his full First Amendment rights. But what we're talking about is the obvious and ugly intolerance of parts of the gay movement, who have reacted to years of being subjected to social obloquy by returning the favor.

More from Reason on gay marriage here