- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 6, 2014

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.

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.

SEE ALSO: Bill Maher: ‘Gay mafia’ will take your career down ‘if you cross them’

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.

Mr. Eich also was revealed to fund the 1992 campaign of “far-right extremist” Patrick J. Buchanan and a recent campaign of former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, Mr. Signorile noted in The Huffington Post.

“It all just became too much for Mozilla to bear, and who knows what else may have been dug up on Eich,” he wrote.

The nation’s biggest gay-rights groups also defended Mozilla. The Human Rights Campaign spokesman called the resignation “entirely a measure of our success as a movement.”

“I don’t believe this is a question of suppressing free speech,” said Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for communications. “It’s a question of the market regulating itself.”

Leslie Gabel-Brett, director of education and public affairs at Lambda Legal, wrote in The New York Times on Friday that to call Mr. Eich a victim of discrimination “flips the idea of victimization on its head.”

“Eich is being held accountable for having freely donated his money to a campaign to strip lesbian and gay people of legal rights,” she wrote. “Eich expressed his views. Employees and others expressed their anger. And the board decided he was bad for business.”

“Mozilla’s strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where corporate America is: inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD.

California-based Mozilla and Mr. Eich have declined to make any public comment since Thursday’s resignation.

Mr. Sullivan didn’t back down: “It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason,” he wrote Friday.

“When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is the definition of intolerance,” he added.

A minority of commenters at the more radical gay blogs defended Mr. Sullivan.

“Hounding a guy out of his job is a terrible thing. I have read all the arguments, but we could be setting a bad precedent here,” “daveinsf” wrote on Joe.My.God.

“Lefty Coaster” on DailyKos also came out in support of Mr. Sullivan, as did a few commenters such as “Jonathan B,” who worried about the media “painting us “as bullies, and “scaring people as to how we will treat them if we win in their state.”

Even OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagun expressed some trepidation by telling reporters Friday that “there was no interest in creating an Internet lynch mob” and saying his company never demanded that Mr. Eich resign.

“I am opposed to that with every bone in my body,” he said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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