Yesterday, Brendan Eich stepped down as Mozilla CEO. If you've been living under a rock, it was because in 2008 he made a donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, which successfully (albiet temporarily) stopped the legality of same-sex marriage in California. There was a large backlash by employees and general internet community members about this.
As an out gay man working in technology, whose last significant post was specifically about the DOMA ruling (before it came out and I got all happy that for once something positive happened to gay rights in America nation-wide), you might think I'm happy about this. After all, Prop 8 was a truly shameful example of exactly how the California state referendum system can be used easily as a way for the majority to trample on the minority, and how easy it is for out-of-state interests to bankroll what should be a purely internal issue based on ideological/religious interests. You might think I'm cheering that mob rule for once worked in my favor.
Yesterday I was conflicted.
Today I think this was wrong and short sighted.
There is no doubt that Brendan is on the wrong side of history. The law has changed, public opinion has changed dramatically since Prop 8 passed, history will prove that Brendan's position was a historical anachronism. I don't even have to know or care why he donated to the Prop 8 campaign to know this.
I know there've been calls to say "Yes, but he hasn't changed his mind!" Quite frankly, I don't know if this is the case and again, I don't care. It will just make him seem even more on the wrong side of history before long. I'm fine with that. (And if you think he's ever going to change his mind after this, you don't know how the human mind works).
What I do know is this:
- The State of California gives gay employees of Mozilla (a for-profit corporation) the legal rights and remedies that we've fought for if Brendan was to have attempted to discriminate, overtly or surreptitiously, against employees who are in a same-sex marriage.
- Brendan has not whilst he was CEO done anything to indicate that he would attempt to act in such a way as to do that in the first place. In fact, he's attempted to be as reassuring as he can be.
- Brendan has not attempted to use his position as CEO to promote personal causes in the political arena that would be contrary to the diversity of the work force (e.g. he's not pulled a Hobby Lobby or Chik-fil-a).
- Were he to do so either of those things, given how public this has been, the board of directors would be within their rights to do the single thing a board of directors has the legal right and obligation to do in such a situation: fire the CEO.
I imagination a situation where the shoe is on the other foot. I imagine a situation where I was put in charge of a large and diverse technical organization, one where I had already established myself in the technical realm, and employees demanding that I be fired because I was gay. Isn't that what we've been fighting against?
But even more than that, history has shown that the way that people's minds change about these issues is day to day exposure to close associates (friends, family members, co-workers, employees) that are open about their sexuality. Over time, it transforms their views from these people are strange and different to these people are just like me, but gay.
It's why even extremely Christian identifying young adults are gradually becoming in favor of legalized civil same-sex marriage.
What the people rushing for the pitchforks have ignored is that this virtually guarantees that Brendan, and people like him, will choose to self-segregate themselves in the future from highly diverse organizations. And that is exactly what leads to societal mores not changing.
So no, I'm not pleased about this. I think it's just a victory for mob rule as Prop 8 was in the first place. And I had hoped we as gay people, had all moved beyond that.