Higgins: My guilty pastWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been thinking about the recent resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich and what it means, not only as a user of this particular search engine, but as someone paying attention to the direction in which the political winds blow. Now for those who somehow missed the story, let’s go over the highlights.
Six years ago Mr. Eich, who co-founded Mozilla back in 1998, made a $1,000 contribution in support of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that opposed the legalization of gay marriage in California. Prop. 8 passed by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, but was later overturned in the court system. Since those rulings, gay marriage have resumed in California.
After many years with the company, Mr. Eich was recently named to the position of chief executive officer, a job that had been open for more than a year. While news of his contribution made the news years ago, the story resurfaced after the promotion was announced, and a firestorm of controversy ensued on social media and within the tech community.
Some initially merely called for Eich’s resignation, but soon others went further and called for a boycott of Mozilla. Mr. Eich issued a statement re-affirming his commitment to inclusiveness at the company. The chair of the Mozilla Foundation, Mitchell Baker, later also issued a statement about the company’s continuing commitment of inclusiveness and its support for marriage equality. The damage appeared to have been done, however, and Eich resigned his position and left Mozilla on April 3, 10 days after becoming CEO.
The free speech issue, of course, is at the heart of this controversy, and it’s one that can be appreciated from both sides. Mr. Eich is certainly free to exercise his speech rights in making political contributions. Customers considering use of the Mozilla search engine (which is provided free by the way, except for voluntary contributions) are likewise free to use or discard any product from any company for whatever reason they choose.
I can sympathize with Mr. Eich, however, who while apparently holding a rather closed definition of what constitutes a marriage in 2008 (the same one the president had at the time), showed no signs of discriminatory practices against LGBT employees in the workplace. I can likewise sympathize with anyone (in the LGBT community or otherwise), who finds Mr. Eich’s opinions on marriage offensive and responds. I do get concerned, however, when a single action, years in our past, can have such far-reaching impact on our present and future.
Now, as a Libertarian, I take a somewhat different view on the entire subject of marriage. My concern is not about the respective sexes of those being joined (or the number for that matter), but what business the government has in the process. The fact one must obtain a license to marry from that government (and pay them for the privilege) is not only offensive, but seems ludicrous in this day and age. It’s not as if government stands in as a feudal lord whose permission must be sought before joining nor is it a state affair in which inheritance of lands and title may be at stake.
Considering that for those of non-noble lineage, this ceremony was little more than a gathering during which the happy couple jumped over a broomstick together, today’s rules and regulations seem almost grotesque. That the rite supposedly being protected from desecration can now not only be legally officiated at by a priest, minister, magistrate or justice of the peace, but by any mayor, ship’s captain or Elvis impersonator with a drive-thru lane makes the demand for government certification seem farcical.
I bring all of this up of course, because of my own trepidation of exposure. No, I haven’t been asked to step into a position of greater authority recently, nor do I expect to be at any time soon. Nevertheless, I fear that some crack Toledo Free Press investigative reporter might choose to “out” the guilty secret from my own dark past.
No, it’s not some contribution to a ballot initiative that would portray me as a homophobe, racist or religious bigot in the past six years that I fear. Growing up in the rarefied political environs of Chicago however and influenced by a Catholic education under the tutelage of a rather dissident clergy during the ’60s and early ’70s, I’m ashamed to confess that when I was finally able to legally cast my first ballot, I voted Democrat … twice.