This Is Intolerance

Watching all of these Mozilla employees demand the removal of Brendan Eich as CEO makes me extremely uneasy.

What did Eich do? He donated a thousand dollars in support of California’s Prop 8 back in 2008.

I was against Prop 8 and am pretty clear on my feelings about gay rights in general. In short, I disagree with Eich’s positions in 2008.

But Eich has changed his mind and has apologized, just like millions of others, including our current president who was against same sex marriage when he first ran for president in 2008.

One Mozilla employee, Chris McAvoy, says he feels fortunate to work for Mozilla where he can speak out against Eich “without fear of retribution.”

McAvoy clearly appreciates his ability to speak his mind without fear of retribution. But he also demands the termination of employment of a person that he disagrees with.

That sounds like hypocrisy, and intolerance, to me.

America continues to shift dramatically towards less intolerance towards gays. Those that are happy this is happening, like I am, should not aim to destroy those citizens who just took a little longer than we did to come around to our way of thinking.

59 thoughts on “This Is Intolerance

  1. Well said. I disagreed with Prop 8 as well, but I’m not about to demonize people for exercising their constitutional right to argue their point of view. Is there was proof Eich discriminated he would have much greater problems but that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

    Hypocrisy lives in all aspects of our lives and people need to take a deep breath on this one.

  2. says:

    It’s not Eich’s beliefs that are the issue. He didn’t just vote for Proposition 8. He used his financial resources to try to pass it — and succeeded, remember. He actively attempted to destroy the marriages and families of every LGBT person in California, including Mozilla employees. He did real personal harm to innocent people, and has never apologized for it.

    This isn’t asking someone to step down because they voted for Romney or Obama. This is asking someone to step down because he directly harmed many of his employees and asserted that they do not deserve equality under the law, and has *never* apologized for doing so.

    I’m gay, and lived in California at the time of Proposition 8. His actions directly damaged me and my ability to live my life as an equal citizen. He had a right to do that, but those of us he attacked also have a right to call him out for his hurtful actions and tell Mozilla that we won’t work with companies led by those who view us as being less than human.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      I’d call this statement an apology:

      “I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to “show, not tell”; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.”

      I agree with you when you say that his actions were directly harmful to people. But I also understand that many people have deep cultural and religious objections to homosexuality. Often one’s opinion on issues like these are just a result of the environment they grew up in. If they had grown up in a different city, or with different parents, they might very well feel differently.

      I always wonder what I would have thought about slavery had I grown up in the South in the early 1800s, perhaps even being born to a family that owned slaves. I very much hope that I’d fight against it, but I can’t honestly say what I’d do without actually living through it.

      Can you say with certainty that you would have stood up against society and fought slavery?

      Are you 100% sure you would have fought against Hitler to defend Jews in WWII?

      I think asking yourself questions like that are a great way to try to understand the people you disagree with. Eich has changed his mind on this issue, and I think he should be embraced for doing so.

      • says:

        Some people have a deep cultural and religious objection to whites and blacks being married. Would you support Mozilla appointing a racist as CEO? Someone who actively fights to keep his country club whites only?

        I would have stood up against slavery, as my family members did. I would have fought Hitler, as my family members did.

        However, the issue is not that Eich isn’t on the front lines fighting *for* marriage equality, it’s that he was on the front lines fighting *against* equality for some of the very people who work for him. In your analogy, he is a Confederate solider. He is a… well, can’t go there for fear of Godwin.

        If I were a gay employee at Mozilla, how could I work for a boss who I know doesn’t even consider me fully human?

        How could I feel safe working for a company where the CEO has actively plotted to ruin my life and cause me irreparable harm?

        How could I feel valued working for someone who has spit upon my face and publicly declared that I am undeserving of equal protection under the law?

        No one forced Eich to announce his position on marriage equality. No one is demanding people fill out ideological purity tests. *HE* made this an issue by proactively attacking every LGBT person in California.

        We did nothing to him. Nothing. He attacked us.

        And he hasn’t apologized. He hasn’t said “I am sorry, and I was wrong to contribute to Proposition 8.”

        If he *would* say that, I, for one, would mostly stop objecting to him. But he won’t. And we all know why — because he still believes that gays are inferior, immoral, and undeserving of being treated as full human beings.

        • Michael Arrington says:

          I hope that some day you can find it in your heart to forgive those that once acted so atrociously towards you, even if they don’t apologize.

          • says:

            Of course not. But pressuring him until he finally apologizes properly, which I hope is the end of this, is reasonable. He deserves every bit of condemnation he is receiving. He hurt people. Why shouldn’t he be held accountable?

          • Michael Arrington says:

            I just wish I could find the right words to show you that you’re doing the same thing to him that he did to you.

          • says:

            I am not doing the same thing he did to me. He tried (and succeeded, for a time) in rendering me a second class non-person under the law. He stripped me of key civil rights. He tried to destroy my family. He supported and participated in the sort of deeply painful persecution that directly causes gay teens to commit suicide.

            I don’t want him to lose any of his rights under the law. I don’t want him to be stripped of his civil rights. I don’t want his kids to be told that their parents’ marriage is a farce and a lie and that their parents are sin-addicted abominations.

            I want him to truly apologize and recant for the evil things he has done.

            The gay community has in no way harmed him. He has done great violence to us. You condemn us for seeking to hold him accountable for his evil.

          • Michael Arrington says:

            Should everyone who felt the way he did (or does) be fired from their jobs?

          • says:

            Of course not. But should someone who very clearly is deeply bigoted towards people in a company be promoted to be their boss?

            No one is demanding purity tests. This is entirely his fault. He could have been a quiet little bigot and voted for Prop H8 and no one would have known. He chose to make a public spectacle of his hatred of gay people by donating to the campaign. That action, that malice, makes him unsuited to be the face of and leader of an employee base that includes LGBT people.

            If he recants and shows true remorse, this would blow over quickly.

            That he hasn’t even hinted in that direction, despite a huge public backlash, indicates that he’s more committed to his anti-gay bigotry than he is to leading this company.

      • Ross Gass says:

        No. That’s not an apology. He’s not sorry for what he DID. He is sorry for getting caught. For having hurt peoples feelings. That is not being sorry for holding a belief that equality is necessary.
        I think you guys aren’t looking at the most important thing here and the guiding principle in all such decisions: dollar dollar bills, y’all! Money!!!
        Mozilla is a company that is a HUGE proponent, if not one of the originators of open-source content and also a free and unfettered internet. As a company, competing a marketplace with huge tech giants like Google and Apple, anything that detracts from how they appear to prospective employees is detrimental to the bottom line AND the company’s founding principles. Also, its important to note, that the first steps to get this dude out came FROM WITHIN. The company’s own employees started taking unpaid leave, resigning, tweeting, etc. If the company’s current employees aren’t happy at work, why would the blue chip recruits even worry about considering it as a option?
        Free speech isn’t free. Just like activism isn’t safe. The freedom doesn’t come from avoiding the repercussions, it comes from enduring the repercussions and changes being implemented due to the attention received from your valorous act. Free speech doesn’t mean the cop your filming can’t smash your camera to the ground, it means that cop gets in trouble later and policies change as a result. To think otherwise is naive.

      • Sam says:

        That statement is not an apology from Eich because it was written by PR hacks. Read Eich’s self-written notes and the one in that blog post to know the difference. Eich never changed his mind on the issue.

  3. says:

    And nowhere in that apology does he actually apologize for supporting Prop 8. That is the classic “sorry, I’m not sorry” non-apology. If he would repent, recant his opposition to equality, and actually seem like he wants to make amends to those whose lives he tried to destroy, there’d be no reason for people to be up in arms.

    “I was wrong to support Proposition 8, and I no longer oppose marriage equality.” Until an apology includes that sentence or words to that effect, it’s not an apology for his actual offense.

  4. Jorge Williams says:

    CQ — suppose there were people at Mozilla who think homosexuality is depraved and it turns out the CEO of the company is gay. They explain that his lifestyle has damaged their marriages and their families and therefore he must resign. I imagine you would not be okay with that? Is it such a stretch to see your current position as equivalent?

  5. says:

    It’s not about beliefs, it’s about actions. He tried to use the force or law to harm people. If a gay CEO had donated to a campaign to dissolve the marriages of his straight employees, I would stand with them in opposing them. If the CEO had donated to an effort to discriminate against people of certain religious faiths and not treat them equally under the law, then I would also oppose him.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      I’d oppose him too. But in my opinion calling for his termination for his beliefs is intolerant, and is a slippery slope towards real evil. The way to win an argument is to change minds, not banish them.

      • says:

        It wasn’t evil when we shamed the racists out of the public square. It isn’t evil to treat the anti-gay bigots the same way.

        • Michael Arrington says:

          Should we just put him in front of a wall and shoot him?

          • Skip says:

            Yes MA, that would solve it for people like CQ… shooting, or maybe hanging. I’m appalled that your argument is seemingly so difficult to understand. And, it’s not like Eich stood staunchly on his original position. He acquiesced and changed his position. But that’s not enough, and it’s usually those who scream intolerance that harbor the most intolerance. No better example than this exchange.

            I’m not a Californian so I didn’t have a chance to support or oppose Prop 8. But, it’s clear than many in opposition have NO tolerance for the supporters.

      • awendt says:

        Even though you keep bringing it up: This has nothing to do with intolerance.

        There’s a big difference between anti-gay people and people opposing anti-gay people: The former judge people for what they *are* (LGBT). The latter judge people for what they *do* (discriminate against LGBT people). You need to understand: This is a different quality. Being against LGBT (and judging people for what they are in general) is not an opinion. It’s misanthropy. Because you’re attacking people’s identity, not just the positions they hold.

        Whenever people do not get away with this, it’s not intolerance. It’s a good day for society.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      Also…I’ve been strident in my support for gay rights, based largely on the fact that I had a gay roommate for three years (and a lifelong friend) and I saw what our society put him through. But I’m not gay myself and so I can’t really judge you for your feelings on this issue. I’m just happy that the future looks bright for gay rights in this country.

      • Phin says:

        Agree with your perspective in this post. Also, over the years I’ve noticed our social, political and economic perspectives dovetail. With that in mind, and this may be splitting hairs, but your repetition of the phrase “gay rights” is worth considering. Like you, I’ve been gay friendly my whole life, and did not vote for Prop 8, but recently when a girl with a clipboard approached me at Trader Joe’s and said “Do you support gay rights?” I paused and said, “No more than I support straight white men’s rights. But I *do* support certain universal rights for everyone.” She was taken aback and nonplussed, of course, but it’d be nice to think she actually thought about the ramifications of declaring and applying “rights” to specially designated groups rather than considering what natural rights are universal to everyone. Again, probably hairsplitting. But language defines concepts and their impact.

        • Jamshid says:

          Not just probably, that’s definitely hairsplitting. What a absurdly pedantic argument I’m surprised she didn’t slap you with the clipboard [that’s a joke I do not advocate violence against pedants]. How about “do you support gay people having the same (universal) rights as straight people?”

      • Jamshid says:

        Exactly how tolerant should I be of someone campaigning to keep me a second-class citizen?

  6. “But Eich has changed his mind and has apologized, just like millions of others, including our current president who was against same sex marriage when he first ran for president in 2008.”

    Uncrunched, would you support his ouster if he hadn’t changed his mind?

    For simplicity’s sake, let’s say he supported Prop 8 and hasn’t done much with the issue since, but has refused to retract his support for it.

  7. Assaf Lavie says:

    Your timeline is wrong. He only apologized after this became an issue and a PR disaster for him.

  8. jlachenmyer says:

    I think he needs to really reach out to the Mozilla community. The employees need to feel safe, and they need to feel that he’ll fight for their best interests.

    I don’t think it’s just about him changing his mind, but why? Is it sincere?

  9. Just a reader says:

    “But Eich has changed his mind and has apologized…”

    Has he? He’s certainly written about having a commitment to inclusiveness at Mozilla, and I suppose it’s arguable if that counts as an apology or not (see other comments here), but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that he’s “changed his mind” on the matter.

    • says:

      Most of this would blow over immediately if he came out and said “I was wrong to support Proposition 8, and I am sorry for doing so.” But it appears that he lacks the character necessary to do that.

      • Bryan Schappel says:

        CQ is 100% correct. There has been no apology only weasel words. Predicating an apology with “If I offended” or “If I hurt” makes it a non-apology.

        Mike, I see no reason that asking Eich to step-down creates a slippery slope. This is the first time I can recall that a CEO has been taken to task over their personal decisions but this happens all the time to the “little people”. There are countless examples of people being fired for personal writings, public statements, and similar acts. This is the first time that one of “high and mighty” is being subjected to the same scrutiny as everyone else. How does this create a slippery slope?

        The only real downside to this is that it will make a perfect case for keeping campaign donations secret. Now that a 1%-er has been snared in this trap I expect that we’ll see the death of any chance to have transparency in political campaign donations.

      • Skip says:

        Really? So, in order to have character he has to agree with you? You are so misguided.

  10. Jorge Williams née Barcode says:

    The net is making everyone a Supreme Court nominee. Eventually only people who never stood for anything will be able to get and hold a job,

  11. Tony Wright says:

    How would you feel working for an unapologetic bigot if you were a minority, even if he promised to treat you fairly out of sense of professionalism and because he didn’t want to break the law? Could you love working for a boss like that? Could you love buying a product from a company led by someone like that?

    If a leader at a company I love (or work for) does something that I think is wrong (lawful or no), I think it’s okay to respond based on the depth of wrongness. We’d all agree that an outcry would be appropriate if he was an unapologetic rapist. But what about a racist? A sexist? Would you feel the same if he donated to anti-women’s-suffrage groups but promised to treat women with respect at Mozilla? What about non-violent white power / racial purity groups? Now, what about if you disagree with him about vaccines? Charter schools?

    The crux of this issue is “how wrong/awful is this belief?” Our culture is moving in the right direction, so perhaps you’re right that we should be less heavy-handed on issues that are “in progress”. A racist today is less forgivable than a racist 100 years ago. But perhaps if we treat an anti-gay bigot the same we we treat an unapologetic racist, we’ll get where we need to go faster.

    • douglas says:

      It is strange to see such words… Have you never, in your life, worked for someone with whom you disagreed? I have, many times. All that mattered is that he paid me a fair wage for my work and that I felt secure that the job would last as long as I needed it. The boss’ personal beliefs meant little to me. If they so offended me that I felt threatened or demeaned, I would find another job. Yes, I would make sure I explained that to the boss when I quit. But, so long as he respected my right to disagree with him, why would I care what he believed or supported?

      • Tony Wright says:

        I disagree with lots of folks. If I disagree with them on Obamacare or minimum wage, I’m okay with it– that’s politics. If I disagree with them on whether black people should be allowed to marry white people, it’s big issue… Wouldn’t you agree? The question is: are we going to treat people who think that LGBT deserve different/fewer rights the same way we treat people who think that black people deserve different fewer rights?

  12. Skip says:

    Opinion of same-sex marriage is still a 50-50 issue in this country given the margin of error. It’s also been established the deeper belief is far more conservative-minded, and those who register with an opinion of indifferent are just tired of hearing about it, yet the indifferent opinion gets registered as a supporting opinion. With less than 4% of the population identifying as LBGT, how can this be such a front and center issue when there are far more pressing concerns. California is in a world of its own. Good luck with that…

  13. oibalf says:

    I think most of us understand what you’re saying, Mike. But some people like to lash out in anger when they’ve been wronged, and others just want to see the mighty brought low. That’s just human nature, I’m afraid.

  14. taoeffect says:

    Mike, you are misleading people. Please stop.

    1. “But Eich has changed his mind and has apologized”

    He did not. There is no apology in the link you shared.

    The is the closest he came to an apology, and it is not by any stretch of the imagination an apology: “express my sorrow at having caused pain.”

    2. “But he also demands the termination of employment”

    He did not. He asked for him to step down as CEO. That is not the same as asking him to be fired.

    Please update your article in a way that reflects reality.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      I read an apology but you may be right on #1. On #2, you’re just wrong. What people are putting this man through is awful and is much worse than calling for his termination. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had death threats at this point. Remember what happened to the FRC when it was labeled a hate group by the SPLC

  15. Bill Logan says:

    What apology? And what exactly is he apologizing for? The closest that Eich comes to this is when he says that he will “express my sorrow at having caused pain”. And there’s no indication at all that he has personally changed his mind about gay marriage; he just made statements about how as CEO he’ll continue the company’s commitment towards equality of various kinds–can you imagine a CEO today saying that he wouldn’t?

    People are upset at finding out about Eich’s campaign donations in support of Prop. 8 because he didn’t just disagree with the idea that gay couples could get married–he financially supported a political campaign to strip them of that right to marry after that right had already been legally recognized by the California courts.

    I’m not gay, and I don’t work for Mozilla, so I’m not going to say what Mozillans should or shouldn’t do with respect to Eich. That said, if I did work for Mozilla, what would I want? Honesty. Real honesty, not some bland statement written by a crisis PR specialist. Eich could explain why he financially supported Prop. 8 back in 2008. He could explain how he currently views gay marriage and gay couples (married and otherwise). He could explain whether or not he now regrets having financially supported Prop. 8. And have him talk about these things unscripted in a long video where he appears as a human being; don’t let this be done in a statement written by a PR firm.

    Maybe Eich will end up saying that he’s still greatly conflicted about gay marriage due to his religious beliefs conflicting with his knowledge of the situations of specific people he knows. Personally, I could accept that, if I felt he were actually being honest with me.

  16. Joe says:

    It is only natural that one should approach an issue so close to their heart, their lives and the lives of those they care about so strongly, but you should take care not to meet opposing beliefs with vehemence. If you really want to change the hearts and minds of people, you need to do so with patience, latitude and understanding. It is difficult to erase years, generations of belief structure and ideals. I read a quote once, “Your beliefs do not make you a better person, your behavior does.” Consider how you behave when someone disagrees with you and exercises their right to support their beliefs.

    This is a difficult turning point in society, where many people are being introduced to new perceptions, ideas..a new vision of what society could be, should be. It is difficult. Many people do not like change, they fear it and that fear of the unknown can be a powerful motivator. When one is staunch in their ideas or right and wrong, they may choose to defend or prevent opposing ideas and that is their right. How is this man financially opposing a campaign any different than any LGBT activist financially supporting theirs? Arguably it is because of the pain he caused people by doing so.

    There is no question that he brought pain to many undeserving people, but in his mind there was a need, he truly believed it was necessary. There are many staunch believers who truly believe as he did (or perhaps he still does, who knows?) that are, although unjustifiably so, pained and disturbed by gay marriage. By the actions of those who advocate and support it.

    It is my opinion that those people are wrong, I find no reason why anyone, any couple should be refused the basic rights as a member of society, as a human being, simply based on such things as gender. That is my belief, how I perceive things. However, even I know that you cannot expect favorable results by trying to change the minds of those who do not agree with you by way of attacks on their life, by way of anger and hate.

    I am not a religious person and there has been many a time someone spoke to me of God and otherwise tried to convert me. When they are kind, honest and fair, I always give them an open ear and listen to what they have to say. It may not change my beliefs, but I give them that time. Sometimes I am approached by those who judge and treat me poorly, as less of a person for my beliefs or lack thereof. They attempt to use fear and negativity to sway me. I simply inform them how wrong they are in approaching in such a way, that they cannot hope to change the hearts and minds of others through negativity before going on about my way.

    Do that every day and even if a dozen people are not swayed, one person may change their mind and maybe even learn an important lesson.

  17. John says:

    “He tried to destroy my family.”

    You don’t think it’s a little over the top to equate a campaign donation to trying to destroy your family?

    • rsemil says:

      No, because supporting a law that destroys families is equivalent to destroying the families. In a democracy, laws are made by the people supporting them.

      • John Honovich says:

        So if a person supports the death penalty, this is equivalent to that person killing a person?

        • rsemil says:

          Yes, they are. Who else is responsible than the one making the decision?

          • John Honovich says:

            Making the decision? Voting for the death penalty or making a donation to support the death penalty is not the same thing as deciding to execute someone.

          • Emil Vikström says:

            So saying “Go ahead, kill everyone who did X!” is not the same thing as saying “He did X, go ahead and kill him!”? Or is there a difference between giving the order and performing the execution?

          • John Honovich says:

            Emil Vikström: So saying “Go ahead, kill everyone who did X!” is not the same thing as saying “He did X, go ahead and kill him!”? Or is there a difference between giving the order and performing the execution?

            –> A regular person who supports the death penalty is not ‘giving the order’ to execute anyone, just like Brendan Eich is not ‘giving the order’ to deny gay marriage. He’s the CEO of a tech company, not the mayor / governor / president.

            If you all want to lynch him go ahead but you are conflating two very different things.

  18. Brenden Eich is being treated like an anti-gay bigot, not because of his beliefs, but rather because he took public action to deny a small persecuted minority the same rights as everyone else. This is not intolerance, it is a life lesson: payback is a b****.

    In order to be a leader,not only does one require technical skills, but also the respect and trust of the people being led. The latter may well be more important in a community driven organization like Mozilla. Brenden Eich does not appear to have this trust and respect and I don’t see how he can ever have it. Half the board has resigned, and a number of employees he is supposed to be leading have rejected his authority. Third party developers have dropped the platform, and users like me have uninstalled the software. Appointing someone who attracts this much animosity from Mozilla’a supporters is just plain bad business. Not only only should he go, but so should the rest of the board.

  19. Denying people the right to marry is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of civil rights.

    I respect Brendan Eich for sticking to his principles when it would be convenient for him to lie and issue an apology, but you can’t lead an organization that has an explicit commitment to equality for all if you don’t believe in marriage equality.

    Singling out Brendan for personal attacks is unfair; many people donated to the Prop 8 campaign. But politely calling for his resignation is well within the rights of the community members.

  20. Nik says:

    I dont think it was ever a question of Freedom of speech as everybody is making it out to be…But facts dont have 2 sides…Water is formed from Hydrogen and Oxygen – this is not an opinion, its a scientific fact…if I answer any other way in my examinations, the teachers have the right to fail me…its not an attack on my free speech when that happens…similar is the case with Gay rights…most people who think this way dont understand that there are scientific reasons to this…human sexuality is very complex science and its only religion which defines it as a “sin”…only because it is hidden behind a religious curtain is it even tolerated in this world…if i were to say that my religion prohibits water from flowing downstream that wouldnt make me a very smart guy…

  21. Inis Magrath says:

    The article states that Eich, “has changed his mind and has apologized.”

    No. No he did not. The most that can be said is he expressed “sorrow at having caused pain.” While that is a decent sentiment, it is not an apology for supporting Prop 8 and nowhere in his statement did Eich even infer that he “changed his mind” about his advocacy against same-sex marriage.

    I’m not expressing an opinion about whether Eich should have resigned or not. I am pointing out, however, that it cannot be said that Eich “has changed his mind and has apologized.”

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