You're outta here: Brendan Eich resigns as Mozilla CEO

Steven Loeb · April 3, 2014 · Short URL:

Eich found himself caught in a firestorm of controversy over his anti-gay marriage views

It's funny how much the world can change in just 10 years.

Back in 2004, George Bush rode to his relection by using anti-gay marriage amendments in key swing states, to get out the evangelical vote. It was a depressingly sleazy strategy in my opinion, one that relied on fear and divisiveness to get out the vote, but it was smart because, well, it worked. 

Cut to 2014. A majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. The tide has turned so much, in fact, that being against it can be enough for you to lose your job.

After less than two weeks on the job, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned, the company announced on Thursday. Mozilla is framing it as Eich's choice, saying that he "made this decision for Mozilla and our community."

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves," Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, wrote in the blog post.

"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."

Eich, who helped found Mozilla in 2003, was named CEO back on March 24th, but he soon got caught up in a firestorm of controversy when it was revealed that he had donated $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign, a.k.a. the measure that attempted to ban gay marriage in California back in 2008. The law was overthrown by the Supreme Court last summer

The revelation of that donation led to a number of Mozilla staffers openly calling for Eich's resignation via Twitter, as well as protests from sites like OKCupid, which urged Firefox users to use a different browser to access the site. 

In addition, at least 70,000 people signed a petition calling for Eich’s resignation, with many more threatening to boycott the browser until Eich either stepped down, or stated that he supports gay marriage.

Eich has maintained that he has kept his personal views out of the workplace, even telling VentureBeat, in an interview posted only hours before his resignation, that he the company would not be able to work if he did not.

“How I’ve conducted myself in my 16 years at Mozilla. I’ve always kept my personal beliefs out of it,” Eich says. “We won’t succeed in the mission if people can’t leave irrelevant, exclusionary stuff at the door.”

Even though Eich has now resigned, there is no doubt that the issue of the right to free speech, and free expression, will continue to linger in the aftermath of this incident.

"Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard," Baker wrote.

"Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all."

So did Eich do the right thing by resigning? In my opinion, yes, he did. 

Regardless of your feelings on same sex marriage, the fact is that because of his beliefs Eich did not have the support of either the Mozilla community, nor his employees. He has every right to believe what he wants to believe, and support the causes he wants to support, but a CEO cannot operate in a vaacuum. 

Eich was to be the face of Mozilla. And its users had just as much right to want a different person representing who they are, and what they believe in.

What Mozilla does next is an open question, with no frontrunner for the open CEO spot being mentioned/

"We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved," said Baker.

I'm sure many of you will have thoughts on the topic. Feel free to sound off below!

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