Opposing View: Was Mozilla Flap Counter-Productive to Gay Rights?

Written by scott on April 7th, 2014

Firefox - MozillaYesterday, we featured Kos’s column on the Brendan Eich resignation. Today we’ll let Andrew Sullivan argue the opposing view.

Thank you for the hundreds and hundreds of emails about the Mozilla- Eich affair. My readers overwhelmingly disagree with me for a host of reasons. But I have to say that this time, the more I have mulled this over, the more convinced I am that my initial response to this is absolutely the right one. And not just the right one, but a vital one to defend at this juncture in the gay rights movement.

So let me concede all of the opposing arguments that have been deployed to defend the public shaming and resignation of Brendan Eich. To recap those points: This was not the “gay left” as such, but the “techie straight left” more broadly. Sure (I’ve been to San Francisco.) He wasn’t fired; he resigned. Undisputed. Mozilla is not your usual company. Obviously not. Being CEO is different than being just a regular employee and requires another standard. Sure. It doesn’t matter because we’re all marching toward victory anyway. Well, probably. This was a function of market forces and the First Amendment. You won’t get me to disagree about that.

So why am I more convinced that what just happened still matters, and matters a lot? I think it’s because these arguments avoid the core, ugly truth of what happened. Brendan Eich was regarded as someone whose political beliefs and activities rendered him unsuitable for his job. In California, if an employer had fired an employee for these reasons, he would be breaking the law:

1102. No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.

Now Eich was not in that precise position. He resigned as CEO under duress because of his political beliefs. The letter of the law was not broken. But what about the spirit of the law?

Editor’s note: I have to say, we’re conflicted over these types of cases – on the one hand sure, no one should be “punished” for what they believe. But on the other hand, I have to wonder if the outrage on Eich’s behalf would have been the same if he had donated to a referendum to strip marriage rights from mixed-race couples. Is it still ok, on some level, to show a public bias against gays and lesbians in a way that it’s not to openly show the same bias towards other races?

In any case, we believe that LGBT rights activists should try to be the adults in the room and show the other side a civility that’s often not accorded to us.

Authored By Andrew Sullivan – See the Full Story at The Dish

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