UPDATE: Mozilla’s New CEO Steps Down Over His Prop 8 Donations

Update 4/3/14 4:06pm: Mozilla has announced that Brendan Eich has stepped down as CEO.

By Julissa Catalan

brendan-eichLGBT advocates in the tech industry and all over the world are in shock over Mozilla’s decision to name co-founder Brendan Eich as the company’s new CEO.

Per a Los Angeles Times report released in 2012, Eich made a $1,000 donation to Yes on 8, a campaign which supported California’s ban on same-gender marriage, Proposition 8.

Eich released a statement via his personal blog to address the controversy:  

“I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla,” he said. “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 … I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.”

A spokesperson for Mozilla—a nonprofit and creator of the Firefox web browser—also released a statement, saying the company was “deeply committed to honoring diversity in sexual orientation and beliefs within our staff and community. With thousands of people spanning many countries and cultures, diversity is core to who we are. We’re united in our mission to keep the Web open and accessible for everyone.”

In her own personal blog, Christie Koehler, who is Mozilla’s Education Lead—and part of the LGBT community—supported Mozilla’s decision, though she did express disappointment in Eich’s donations to Prop 8.

“Certainly it would be problematic if Brendan’s behavior within Mozilla was explicitly discriminatory … I haven’t personally seen this (although to be clear, I was not part of Brendan’s reporting structure until today),” she wrote. “To the contrary, over the years I have watched Brendan be an ally in many areas and bring clarity and leadership when needed.”

But not all of Mozilla’s employees have been as understanding to Eich. Via a simultaneous tweet, multiple employees sent a united message telling the newly appointed CEO: “Step down.”

Chris McAvoy led the pack, tweeting, “I love @mozilla but I’m disappointed this week. @mozilla stands for openness and empowerment, but is acting in the opposite way.” He then declared: “I’m an employee of @mozilla and I’m asking @brendaneich to step down as CEO.”

Almost immediately, employees including John Bevan, Jessica Klein, Sydney Moyer and Chloe Vareldi tweeted very similar sentiments and also asked the CEO to resign.

In an even more drastic move denouncing Eich, three Mozilla board members resigned following the announcement.

Former Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs, who runs online security company AVG Technologies; John Lilly, another former Mozilla CEO and current partner at venture-capital firm Greylock Partners; and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online-education startup Shmoop, all resigned from the board last week.

Three people remain on the Mozilla board: co-founder Mitchell Baker, Katharina Borchert, CEO of German news site Spiegel Online, and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.

“We expect and encourage Mozillians to speak up when they disagree with management decisions, and carefully weigh all input to ensure our actions are advancing the project’s mission,” Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, added in a statement.

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25 Comments

  • Michelle Worley

    I find this story very interesting and look forward to seeing how it plays out. It seems like both sides are being respectful in their disagreement, so that is a positive sign. But when half of a board resigns, this seems like a very telling development.

    Outside of Mozilla itself, the OKCupid website has asked their users to please access their website via another web browswer to support their opposition to Eich appointment.

    Curious to see if other sites will follow suit or if this will all be resolved by a resignation. Part of me thinks that Eich should be given a chance to show if he’s changed his ways. But part of me doubts that he really has.

  • I only wish we had the same types of opportunities to voice concerns in the federal government environment. Kudos to the employees @Mozilla!!

  • Angie Forde

    How can we want diversity but insist that anyone who holds a different opinion step down from office? Mr Eich should be given the same opportunity we would all like for ourselves – to do the job and be judged on performance, not on fear of what he might or might not do.

    • SassyLady

      I agree with you Angie. While people may disagree with his personal beliefs, his actions in supporting Prop 8, does not show that he has or will discriminate against LGBT or anyone else. However, for people to quit the board, over this, sounds like there is more going on than the information that is provided here. There actions makes the story more interesting….! :)

    • Cwclifford

      It was more than just an opinion that Eich perpetrated. He supported the legislation to restrict the rights of a minority and for that he need to resign and disappear from public life.

      • Luke Visconti

        And the opinions of privileged people, like CEOs, count more than average. Mr. Bill Marriott spoke at one of our events and talked about his opposition of Proposition 8—which, as he said, did not make him popular with the Mormon church leaders (Mr. Marriott is a devout Mormon). Mr. Marriott told us that his ethics demanded that he treat his employees and guests fairly, equally and equitably—period. That’s leadership. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

        • John Pisello

          Thank you, Luke, for bringing the focus back to corporate leadership and culture. Before Mr. Eich became the CEO of Mozilla, his personal opinions on LGBT civil equality–as expressed through his public action of a financial donation to support Proposition 8–were troublesome, but didn’t implicate the larger corporate culture of the Mozilla Foundation. However, by elevating this person to the top leadership position in the organization, the board of directors made an implicit statement–whether they knew it or not–about their commitment to equal treatment of their employees regarding family-related benefits, as well as their ultimate commitment to diversity.

          Mitchell Baker, the chair of the Mozilla Foundation board of directors, hit the nail on the head when she admitted that the board failed to live up to their own standards with the appointment of Eich. While Eich expressed regret for having caused “pain”, he never expressed regret over his original donation, and he never seemed to understand why people were so outraged over it (i.e., because of the blatant and outrageous lies and smears against the LGBT community perpetrated by the proponents of Prop. 8). If Eich held similar views about any other minority group, he would have been automatically excluded from consideration for the CEO position.

          The fact that many people still see (Eich’s and others’) opposition to LGBT civil equality under the law as simply a “difference of opinion” means that we LGBT people and our allies need to do a better job of explaining the issue.

  • While a strong ally of the LGBT community, and disappointed that Mr. Eich chose to support legislation as hateful as Prop 8, by definition Diversity means including “things” unlike in kind. While I do not support his position on gay marriage, I do support his right to have personal opinions and beliefs that differ from mine. Should Mr. Eich act upon those beliefs in the workplace, that would be the time to ask that he step down. His right to his personal beliefs and lifestyle are just as valid as yours and mine. If he can separate them from his business decisions, he could help pave a needed path into the future. If not, he will certainly suffer the consequences.

    • John Pisello

      Mr. Eich is certainly entitled to his personal opinions, however odious they may be. However, the CEO of any organization–and especially one like the Mozilla Foundation, which has a very strong culture of inclusiveness and diversity–must be held to a higher standard. If Mr. Eich had publicly expressed similar views about another minority group (say women, or Muslims), he never would have been considered for the CEO position.

      In a few recent statements, Mr. Eich claimed that he *would* keep separate his personal opinions from his business decisions; however, these statements had not been backed up by any concrete action (although perhaps he hadn’t had time to do so). In the absence of such action, all we have are his tepid words, balanced against his actual prior actions, to predict his future behavior. I think it’s reasonable for people Mr. Eich has hurt in the past to be suspicious of him now. His exhortations to “just trust him” don’t count for much.

  • This is most interesting because the ones who appear to be intolerant now are everyone asking him to step down because of his personal beliefs and personal donation history.

    To be clear, I advocate for gay rights across the board and am not a fan of the ludicrous Christian right wing and their anti-gay efforts. However, while I’m not a fan of them, I fully support their right in this country to hold and live by their own religious beliefs, no matter how antiquated and ignorant it may seem to me. The intolerance they show towards the gay community seems to be mirrored in the intolerance highlighted in this article for people who think he needs to step down.

    • SassyLady

      Well said…!

    • John Pisello

      Holding a personal opinion is one thing. Actively advocating for your fellow citizens to be treated differently under the law–indeed, to have a particular civil right (access to civil marriage) *taken away* (after it had been granted by the California Supreme Court)–is something else. As I and others have stated elsewhere, CEOs can and should be held to a higher standard than rank-and-file employees. We would not excuse or accept such opinions in a CEO if they were applied to another minority group; we shouldn’t accept them when they’re applied to LGBT people.

      Mr. Eich is an unrepentant bigot, by which I mean he believes that LGBT people should be treated as second-class citizens under the law. None of his recent statements has contradicted this view. This may be his personal opinion, and he has the absolute right to hold it and express it publicly. But he doesn’t have a right to be a CEO, and the Mozilla Foundation’s board of directors, employees, and the larger Mozilla-using community, are certainly entitled to express their opinions as well.

      Unfortunately, I think the board of directors put themselves and Mr. Eich in an untenable position from the start. His views and public actions on this account were made public in 2012; the board should have known his promotion to CEO would cause an uproar within the community and reflect poorly on their commitment to the stated philosophy of the Mozilla Foundation.

      Finally, I want to tackle this “intolerance shown by the gay community” meme. It’s ridiculous to assert that we must tolerate those who seek to oppress us. By that logic, Black people should tolerate the views of White Supremacists. Tolerance is not an excuse to accept bigotry.

  • So this did prove to be interesting, in deed. I still think there are more issues than were mentioned in this story. As someone who has served on boards, I understand the decision to resign is usually not taken lightly. Unless for stated or unstated personal reasons, it usually relates to some concerns over fiduciary responsibility. I have resigned from a board because of a concern about agency mismanagement. And my concerns turned out to be more than valid. These board members must have had other concerns. I guess with the resignation of Eich, we’ll never know what they were.

    At the end of the day, we all have to follow our own conscience. I assume Mr. Eich and the board members were doing just that.

  • This has nothing to do with being intolerant of the CEO’s views. It has to do with our legal system. If this company is ever sued for LGBT civil rights issues, the plaintiffs will point to Exhibit A — the CEO. Same reason Fox most likely fired Craig James last year after he opposed gay rights in his Senate run. So sure, you have a right to any belief you want, just know certain beliefs make you a liability in a court of law.

    • Luke Visconti

      I disagree. This was about the price the company would pay in recruitment, retention and market rejection. It was an economic-driven, marketplace-based decision. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • While I support gay rights, I am dismayed repeatedly by both ends of the political spectrum. Diversity in everything but thought seems to be the creed. By this standard we should impeach the President of the US. In 2008, he held and publicly announced his opposition to gay marriage. We are winning the argument. Why do the ends of the political spectrum insist on a scorched earth policy? I read mozilla’s principle of meritocracy and thought there has been no mention of lack of merit for the CEO, just the wrong private beliefs. If this is what those of us in the movement have become, COUNT ME OUT.

    • Luke Visconti

      I’m afraid I don’t agree with you. Eich had plenty of time to think about a response, and what he said wasn’t good enough. He didn’t reject his previous actions, he didn’t say his mind had changed—he gave a mush-mouthed dance about supporting diversity (while paying for oppression). As CEO, his job was to establish values for the organization and to enforce those values. Mozilla is a community, and he rejected a significant portion of it—against the grain of the nation’s majority, which supports same-gender marriage. What he did wasn’t passive; he donated MONEY to support a hateful bill.

      The President didn’t do a good job on LGBT rights—but he wasn’t opposed to it (just mucked about doing nothing until Admiral Mullen and Joe Biden forced his hand). His actions on LGBT issues are no different than his actions on other issues—which is why the economic recovery is so weak, why Putin ran amok, why immigration reform is still stalled, why the implementation of the Affordable Care Act was such as disaster, and why Kathleen Sebelius still has a job. But at least he never made a donation to Proposition 8. I’m glad Eich is gone—I was worried about how to get rid of my Firefox browser, which is my favorite browser. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • (Everyone) who has Mozilla Firefox as their browser should cancel and place a new browser on their PC.
    This is to boycott the Mozilla corporation for firing a good man Brendan Eich just because of a donation to California Proposition 8 back in 2008.

    We all are entitled to our beliefs without having to worry it might get us fired from our job or placed in jail.
    If you don’t want to end up like Brendan Eich, please help by boycotting Mozilla.
    These air heads need to wake up.
    P.S.FYI
    Barack Obama back in 2008 was against gay marriage and was advised to reverse his position so he would gain more votes for his campaign.
    He did reverse his decision for the reason stated.
    Do you like a President like Barack Obama.

  • Bud Norris, see the above

  • I am sure that my opinion counts for little. I have generally found the emails from Mr Luke Visconti educational, informative, and sometimes provocative. In this particular forum, it appears to me that any opinion that runs counter to his is being attacked and berated as not informed as well as he is. That is not coming off very well to me.

    I do not like Prop 8 and what all of it stood for, nor do I think well of those supporting an effort to ensure that discrimination could be legal. However, Mr Visconti represents Diversity Inc. I am saddened that we cannot accept diverse opinions and leave the rest outside until it active comes inside. Because voices such as these need to remain to bring some of this back and reflect the mirror in the faces of our “Diversity” champions especially when they appear so swept up in their own bias that they are no longer able to separate it from what their organizational role is.

    If I am wrong about what the mission and focus of Diversity Inc is, then it is an excellent thing for me to know. I don’t want to be aligned with something so narrow and tunnel-visioned that it becomes a proponent of some of the very same things it has sought to stop.

    Mr Visconti and other leaders…. your words have power and influence. Think about what you are saying and how it looks and how it would be applied in other situations. There are those who read and listen to you and then shape their views around it. Choose to be the proponent of tolerance and change even within the community.

    • Luke Visconti

      If you’re not in favor of same-gender marriage, then my opinions probably aren’t going to make you happy on this subject. I’m not tolerant of discrimination and hate. Completely intolerant, really. Even the word “tolerance” sets me on edge.

      Regarding Eich, he made the donation, he didn’t react well to the criticism and the reaction to that news put him outside of what his board of directors would tolerate. You can disagree with me, but they made the decision to cut him loose. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

    • very interesting to see how much and what was cut from what I typed. that is “moderation” huh? very telling about what this is really about.
      Also…you removed pretty much anything I said that was critical of what you said. I guess constructive criticism or tolerance of views other than yours is also not part of your repertoire or definition of diversity. I would say that you may not “react well to the criticism and the reaction” to your statements.
      The idea that you would have distrorted what I said so that you could attack me as you have others lets me know more about you. You did not completely remove my support for same-sex marriage but you still did your dig that “IF” I am not supportive of that, then I would not be in support of your comments. What makes me unhappy is to be misrepresented in order to further your own goals. I am “completely intolerant” of being used in such a way and misrepresented so that you can continue to denigrate me or anyone else.
      Very Very Disappointing. I have forwarded articles & encouraged others to subscribe to this. I will clearly be changing that if this is going to be the type of cultural diversity you espouse. It is not the goal of the culture of my workplace to foster any type of discrimination by endorsing some type of authority such as this.

      • Luke Visconti

        You were edited because your post was too long. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make here, either. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I am very disappointed by this. I support gay marriage in a very vague sort of way.

    What really bothers me is how the mob mentality and this new universal surveillance state is coming together. A mob doesn’t scratch his chin and say you know I disagree with Brenden, but being as he invented my favorite scripting language, and doesn’t discriminate, maybe he can be a good boss for a damn web company.

    So suddenly my boss asks me if this enterprise product we made for firefox can run on something else. (Enterprise means companies like to pick a browser and not test you on all of them). And its the right thing for him to ask. We can’t get into this.

    • Luke Visconti

      If you consider that more than half of Americans’ approving of same-gender marriage is an indication of acceptance of gay family members, then Proposition 8 was an attack on people’s loved ones. If your religion forbids same-gender marriage, with the protection of the First Amendment, your religion will never have to perform a same-gender marriage.

      So on one hand, you have a situation where your religious beliefs are protected by our Constitution and on the other, you have a CEO of a community-based, open-architecture software company making a proactive and aggressive move against other people’s families.

      Proposition 8 was organized by people who had a problem with what other people were doing—that didn’t affect them. Who’s the mob? Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

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