The Mozilla fiasco was about far more than “gay marriage”

I went on Howie Kurtz’s Sunday morning, which is now on Fox News, to talk about Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepping down following the controversy of his having donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in California.

As you know, Prop 8 was the ballot measure that repealed the rights of gay couples in California to marry, and it was also intended to repeal the 18,000 legal marriages that had already taken place between gay couples in California.

Because of the outrage from, among others, Mozilla employees, including half of the organization’s board of directors resigning, Eich finally stepped down last week.

I’d written a few days ago that while I’m still glad that Eich stepped down, I definitely thought through whether it was right to challenge Eich over his Prop 8 donation (and I do think it was right). As a result of that piece, Kurtz asked me on his show.


Well, it was three against one.

I don’t like to get heated on shows like this, but it’s hard when three people are taking you on, from literally all sides of you, to not let your temper flare a bit.  So mine flared, a bit. :)

But before we get to the video, a few issues with the discussion:

1. This isn’t just “about gay marriage.”

Prop 8 was about repealing a civil right that already existed.  And while the conservative guest on the show kept talking about it being only some right a “judge” made, well, so was Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that made it legal for blacks and whites to inter-marry.  That was only “some judge’s” decision.  It’s also referred to as the law of the land, and one of the most important moments in American history.

Prop 8 was an exceptionally vicious move, and it was an exceptionally vicious lie-ladened campaign from the religious right, the Catholic church and the Mormons.  You have to understand it in that context in order to appreciate why a $1000-donor to Prop 8 would so enrage gays and our allies.

2. This was about attempting to repeal the 18,000 marriages of gay couples that were already on the books.

Fortunately, the religious right didn’t get away with it.  The court refused to let Prop 8, once passed, repeal the existing 18,000 gay marriages.  But the religious right wanted it to.  And they tried to get a judge to agree.  So when folks talk about this “just being about gay marriage,” and it “just being his opinion,” it was neither.  It was about attempting to delete the marriages of 18,000 Americans with whom Brendan Eich disagreed.

A “difference of opinion” is writing a letter to the editor – not giving $1,000 to some of the biggest bigots on the planet to rip the civil rights, and marriages, away from gay families.

3. Obama did not have the same position as Brendan Eich.

One of the top talking points among conservatives on this issue is that President Obama had the same position as Brendan Eich.  No he didn’t.  First, President Obama may not have been for gay marriage in 2008, but he was against Prop 8, and said so publicly.

Second, while Obama wasn’t good on marriage, Obama was good on every single other gay rights issue in the book.  Can you say the same about Brendan Eich?  I got a kick out of Republicans on Twitter yesterday who asked me why I voted for Obama in 2008, since he wasn’t in favor of gay marriage.  Right, so if you care about gay rights, and the Democrat is bad on one gay rights issue, but none others, vote instead for the Republican who’s pretty much bad on all gay rights issues.

Third, this isn’t about 2008, it’s about 2014.  And President Obama supports gay marriage now, that’s why I’m no longer criticizing him on the topic.  I, we, did however criticize him, quite strongly, on a variety of gay right issues, including marriage equality in the past.  It was AMERICAblog’s deputy at the time, Joe Sudbay, who looked President Obama in the eye and basically scolded the President for not being better on gay marriage. Joe got the President to say that he was “evolving,” a word that dogged the President until he finally came around and endorsed same-sex marriage.  But there’s been no indication that Brendan Eich was evolving, he never even explained his donation, let alone apologized for it.  That suggests a lack of evolution.  And it’s why, in 2014, we’re no longer beating President Obama up on this issue: because the President evolved.

4. It wasn’t just the gays.

Mozilla’s own employees were outraged, and half the board of directors resigned. Under those circumstances, it’s hard to hold on as CEO. Painting this as just “gay activists” demeans the real anger, and efforts, of Mozilla’s own staff and management.

In the end, I’m not entirely sure if Brendan Eich would have lost his job had he simply “not agreed” with gay marriage.  Prop 8 really was an extraordinarily vicious move, and Eich supported it with a sizable donation.

Then again, same-sex marriage is now the law of the land (again) in California, and some of Brendan Eich’s own employees are likely gays who are married.  It would be an awfully uncomfortable work-environment to have a real, legal marriage that your boss not only doesn’t accept, but one he actively tried to get rid of.   That’s not a boss committed to equality.

Below is the video of my discussion on Fox.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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