The resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich because he donated $1,000 six years ago to the effort to ban same-sex marriage in California, has renewed several debates: Should disclosure requirements be loosened? Is there a free-speech component to a legal campaign contribution? What kind of personal opinions disqualify a person from being CEO?
Bill Maher, the liberal humorist, suggested on his show over the weekend that the pressure on Eich to resign was a step over a line.
“If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out,” Andrew Sullivan, a proponent of legalization of same-sex marriage, wrote on his blog.
Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.
Over the weekend, several prominent conservatives also pushed back against the “resignation.”
It’s an example of “the new facism,” Newt Gingrich said.
“Eich is just the highest profile victim of a status quo that threatens countless workers,” counters Slate’s Jamelle Bouie.
And of course, employment discrimination against LGBT Americans is a real and ongoing problem. According to a 2011 report from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, at least 15 percent of gay Americans have faced discrimination and harassment at the workplace on the basis of their orientation, and at least 8 percent report being passed over for a job or fired. A whopping 90 percent of transgender individuals report some sort of harassment on the job. It’s doesn’t minimize Eich’s situation (if you’re opposed to his resignation) to note that gay people are far more likely to face discrimination than opponents of same-sex marriage.
In any case, there’s nothing conservatives can do about Eich’s resignation. But they can join with labor activists and others to push for greater worker protections, like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.
Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.
“If he had apologized years ago, this would be a non-issue,” said Hampton Catlin, an app developer who first called attention to Eich’s campaign contribution.