Mozilla CEO Responds to Antigay Allegations

After taking heat for a donation he made in support of California's antigay Proposition 8, Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich promised to champion inclusion in his new role as CEO.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

March 26 2014 3:18 PM ET UPDATED: March 26 2014 4:34 PM ET

JavaScript inventor and newly appointed Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich

Mozilla's newly appointed CEO broke his silence today after a social media firestorm took him to task for making a donation in 2008 supporting California's now-defunct Proposition 8, which revoked marriage equality in the Golden State.

When Brendan Eich, a cofounder of Mozilla and the inventor of JavaScript, was named CEO of Mozilla last week, some LGBT coders and allies took issue with Eich's 2008 donation to the campaign to pass Prop. 8, and they called for a boycott of Mozilla products, including its popular Web browser, Firefox. 

"I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla," wrote Eich on his personal blog today. "I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. … 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.

"You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products," continued Eich. "Mozilla’s inclusive health benefits policies will not regress in any way. And I will not tolerate behavior among community members that violates our Community Participation Guidelines or (for employees) our inclusive and non-discriminatory employment policies."

Eich's donation of $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign was first reported by the Los Angeles Times back in 2012, but the controversy surrounding the money reignited Monday when gay, married app developers Hampton and Michael Catlin announced a professional boycott of Mozilla after Eich was named CEO last week. 

On their blog for the tech company the couple cofounded, rarebit, the Catlins explained the personal offense they took at Eich's promotion, as a gay, binational couple who could marry in California only after the Supreme Court overturned the voter-approved Prop. 8. Although the couple acknowledged that there are many good, equality-minded people at Mozilla, they stressed that the issue was a personal one for them. 

"Brendan Eich was an active supporter of denying our right to be married and even to start this business," wrote the Catlins Monday. "He actively took steps to ensure that rarebit couldn’t exist!"

Expanding on their announcement that rarebit apps would no longer be available on the Firefox marketplace, Hampton Catlin told The Advocate that he and his husband simply couldn't abide working with a company headed by someone who presumably opposed their marriage. 

"We are not calling for a mass boycott," explained Hampton Catlin in an email Tuesday. "Our situation is unique and personal, as we have been contributing to the Mozilla community. The only way to effect change is to stop promoting his company. I hope though, that they are listening and that Eich would consider making amends with gay developers out there."

Judging by the commitments Eich made in his blog post, he does intend to work toward making amends and representing marginalized LGBT members of the tech community. Eich said that his leadership will seek ways to "include potential contributors," especially those who lack privilege. 

"This entails several projects, starting with Project Ascend, which [is] being developed by Lukas Blakk," wrote Eich, providing a link to the startup conference that aims to provide Open Source and tech training to individuals and communities — including LGBT people — who traditionally don't have access to costly Silicon Valley tech conferences. "I intend to demonstrate with meaningful action my commitment to a Mozilla that lives up to its ideals, including that of being an open and inclusive community."

In follow-up conversations with The Advocate, Hampton Catlin said he was disappointed that Eich's written statement didn't directly address the pro-Prop. 8 donation, and deftly avoided whether Eich's personal views have evolved to be more inclusive and tolerant of same-sex marriage and LGBT people in general. Catlin is hoping for a more productive ultimate resolution. 

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