The Mozilla Project finds itself caught in a firestorm over the political views on gay rights of its newly appointed CEO.
The new CEO of Mozilla, the not-for-profit organisation behind the Firefox web browser, declined on Tuesday to offer a rationale for his 2008 donation in support of California's gay marriage ban, insisting he would remain in post despite a backlash over his appointment.At the time of the heated campaign over CA prop 8 which established a state constitutional ban against marriage equality there were several high profile controversies over individuals who donated a $1000 or more in support of the proposition. That is the threshold for public reporting of campaign contributions is CA. There was at least one situation in which a theater director came under pressure to resign because of such a contribution. Now the same thing has surfaced at Mozilla.
Giving interviews for the first time since he was announced as the new boss of Mozilla on 24 March, Brendan Eich repeatedly refused to be drawn on his stance on gay rights amid a widespread row over his $1,000 donation in support of the successful Proposition 8 ballot measure.
“So I don't want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we've been going,” he told the Guardian. “I don't believe they're relevant.”
The first week of Eich's tenure had been marked by a series of public statements by Mozilla staff protesting his appointment, the resignation of three of Mozilla's directors, and a denunciation from dating site OkCupid, which urged all Firefox users to change browsers.This comes at a time when right wing campaigns for laws to protect "religious liberty" have become increasingly visible. The tech industry in general has shown a tendency to adopt gay friendly and gay supportive employment policies. That has created a climate of people who are not likely to be well disposed to a CEO who has a history of anti-gay political activity.
Eich said OkCupid's move was “rash”, and was keen to downplay other moves since his appointment.
Though his stance on equal marriage had been made public through his donation, Eich said he did not believe it was relevant to his role at Mozilla, and said the organisation's own code of conduct precluded him discussing his views.
The Mozilla Foundation which controls the Mozilla Corporation of which Eich is CEO, depends on public contributions for the support of its projects. The political activities of people in leadership positions in the organizations can have a definite impact on important sources of revenue. Therefore it is really not something that the organization can just be indifferent about. This situation will likely become a political football.