Some gay activists fear same-sex supporters are becoming intolerant

Pushing out Mozilla executive a step too far?

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The resignation of a Silicon Valley executive who opposed gay marriage and refused to recant has sparked an online fight among gays about whether proponents of same-sex marriage are now going too far in trying to marginalize their opponents socially and economically.

The announcement by popular Web browser Mozilla Firefox that co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich was stepping down after two weeks on the job for a 2008 contribution has sparked furious debate over civil rights, privacy and corporate responsibility.


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A leading gay blogger has accused the movement of displaying the same intolerance activists accuse their opponents of practicing, while the website Slate.com published a satirical list of other California companies that should be purged of gay-marriage skeptics, which presumably include the 52 percent of Californians who voted for Proposition 8 in 2008.

Mr. Eich’s semivoluntary resignation — “under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader,” he wrote — resulted from a furor that began when online dating service OKCupid.com, urged its users not to use Mozilla Firefox as a browser.

OKCupid is for creating love,” it said, but Mozilla Firefox is not because in 2008 Mr. Eich donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure,” said a now-removed Web message that OKCupid automatically showed to everyone who tried to access the site using Firefox.

Mozilla employees also protested and three board members quit, prompting Mr. Eich’s resignation and an apology from Mitchell Baker, Mozilla executive chairwoman and co-founder. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry,” Ms. Baker said.

Gay writer Andrew Sullivan, who more or less began the public campaign for same-sex marriage in the 1990s, erupted with an article warning gays and liberals about “becoming just as intolerant of others’ views as the Christianists.”

“The guy who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000 has just been scalped by some gay activists,” Mr. Sullivan wrote on The Dish, before invoking the imagery of Maoist and Puritan purges.

“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks?” Mr. Sullivan wrote. “The whole episode disgusts me — as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society.”

Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, agreed that Mr. Eich should not have been pressured into resigning.

“As much as I disagree with the donation, this is America, and I believe he has a right to support the political causes he believes in,” Mr. Lee said.

An avalanche of comments in the blogosphere lashed back, particularly at Mr. Sullivan, who was described more than once as an “Uncle Tom queer.”

“You can’t say you’re pro-equality when you hire a CEO who is not,” “Drew2u” wrote on Joe.My.God, an award-winning gay blog. “I’m glad the ‘gaystopo’ got revenge” on Mr. Eich, said “John T.” The Eich resignation is a “big blinking warning sign to the next aspiring CEO who thinks he’ll fund bigotry,” said a writer called “uhhuhh.”

Gay journalist Michelangelo Signorile also chided Mr. Sullivan but also seemed to broaden the base for unacceptable conduct to include decades-ago support of candidates perceived as anti-gay.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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