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Mozilla CEO's recent promotion and past Prop 8 contributions prompt criticism

Brendan Eich, a computer scientist known for creating the JavaScript scripting language and cofounder of Mozilla, the group responsible for the Firefox web browser, was recently promoted as the company's CEO after serving as the group's CTO.

His past actions have prompted recent criticism. As ArsTechnica's Sam Machkovech reported earlier this week:

In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 in support of California's Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that sought to ban gay marriage in the state. So shortly after the announcement of Eich's hiring, the reaction came swiftly. In particular, developers came forward with a mix of boycotts and reluctant acceptance.

App developer Rarebit ignited the conversation by announcing that it pulled its apps from the Firefox Marketplace. In a statement, Rarebit CEO Hampton Catlin recalled the story of his own gay marriage experience in California, which allowed him to marry Rarebit co-founder Michael Catlin. Catlin called Eich out for both his Prop 8 donation and his choice not to apologize.


I very strongly recommend reading the post from Rarebit in full. CEO Hampton Catlin's very personal explanation is pretty touching and speaks to one way that current marriage laws in the United States affect many homosexual couples.

Christie Kohler, an employee of Mozilla, published a blog post on Monday that offered quite a well written and nuanced breakdown of her views on Eich's promotion.

As a single employee of Mozilla, I am not sure I can definitively determine Brendan's suitability. I can, however, give insight as to what I experience at Mozilla as a queer woman and how I feel about the appointment.


To be clear, I'm personally disappointed about Brendan's donation. However, aside from how it affected me emotionally, I have nothing to indicate that it's materially hurt my work within the Mozilla community or as a Mozilla employee. Mozilla offers the best benefits I have ever had and goes out of its way to offer benefits to its employees in same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships on par with those in heterosexual marriages. Last year we finally got trans-inclusive healthcare. We didn't have an explicit code of conduct when I started, but adopted the guidelines for participation within my first year. Progress might be slow, but it's being made. And I don't see Brendan standing in the way of that.


Today, employees from within Mozilla are taking things a step further, asking for Brendan Eich to step down as CEO publicly over twitter. Machkovech updated today:


For his part, Eich has tried to draw a line between his personal donations and his participation as Mozilla CEO. In a blog post from yesterday, he reaffirmed his commitment to Mozilla as an open and inclusive organization.

Here are my commitments, and here's what you can expect:

  • Active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building.
  • Working with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn't make Mozilla supportive and welcoming.
  • My ongoing commitment to our Community Participation Guidelines, our inclusive health benefits, our anti-discrimination policies, and the spirit that underlies all of these.
  • My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult. More on this last item below.

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.


He also wrote in 2012 when the issue came up then:

Ignoring the abusive comments, I'm left with charges that I hate and I'm a bigot, based solely on the donation. Now "hate" and "bigot" are well-defined words. I say these charges are false and unjust.

First, I have been online for almost 30 years. I've led an open source project for 14 years. I speak regularly at conferences around the world, and socialize with members of the Mozilla, JavaScript, and other web developer communities. I challenge anyone to cite an incident where I displayed hatred, or ever treated someone less than respectfully because of group affinity or individual identity.

Second, the donation does not in itself constitute evidence of animosity. Those asserting this are not providing a reasoned argument, rather they are labeling dissenters to cast them out of polite society. To such assertions, I can only respond: "no".


For what it's worth, I feel that Eich has tried to play coy about making a forthright apology for his actual actions ("express my sorrow at having caused pain" isn't the same as apologizing for the donations that actually caused the pain) and for trying to play the incivility card to charges against him, considering the $1000 was towards attempting to maintain laws that literally denied civil rights. I think if a substantial number of Mozilla employees feel Eich's promotion of CTO to CEO sends a bad message both internally and externally, then Mozilla should take that seriously and reconsider the appointment.

Updates and discussion are still ongoing on twitter, and can be mostly followed by searching for brendaneich.


A special recognition to the LA Time's original reporting that documented and brought attention to Brendan Eich's original Prop 8 contribution.

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