Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Resigns Amid Gay Marriage Backlash

Eich, who had been on the job less than two weeks, drew public scorn for donating money supporting California's gay marriage ban in 2008.
Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 03, 2014

Mozilla's new CEO Brendan Eich has resigned after less than two weeks on the job due to backlash over an anti-gay marriage donation he made in 2008.

Mozilla is best known for its popular Firefox web browser, a project Eich has worked on since it began in the early 2000's. He's been the Mozilla Corporation's chief technical officer since 2005. (Via Mozilla Firefox)

But when the company announced he was taking over the CEO position last week, some employees began speaking out, asking Eich to step down. (Via Twitter / @iamjessklein, @bevangelist)

Eich had given $1,000 to the 2008 campaign for Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban — a fact which came to light in 2012.

The company knew that contribution would affect how many in the tech community saw the new CEO, so Eich wrote a blog post reaffirming his commitment to equality at Mozilla just two days after he got the job.

But the controversy spread when OkCupid, a popular online dating sight, began showing this message to anyone visiting the site using the Firefox browser. It said: "Mozilla's new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid."

Thursday, the company announced Eich had decided to step down. The blog post also addressed the controversy, saying: "Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality."

That whole "free speech vs. equality" point has been a major part of the discussion surrounding Eich and the calls for him to step down.

Conservative commenters saw the whole ordeal as another example of an all-out attack on anyone who doesn't approve of gay marriage. A writer for The American Conservative said, "This is not about punishing him for things he’s done in the office, because there is no evidence that he has done anything objectionable to LGBTs, but by punishing him for privately expressed political speech six years ago." (Via The Blaze)

But that view wasn't confined to conservatives. A tech writer for VentureBeat who described herself as "a gay San Francisco journalist" agreed, saying "Personally, I don't know or want to know why he made that donation because ... I don't think it has any bearing on his performance as CEO."

But a writer for The Guardian points out companies have to weigh the public perception of who they chose as the face of their company. "To pretend that the opinions and actions of the CEO of a global organisation are independent of the way that company is perceived and the way its values are lived is to ignore an ugly truth."

Mozilla says Eich wasn't pressured to leave, but acknowledged his ability to lead had been damaged by the public backlash.