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Brendan Eich of Mozilla gave $1000 to support gay marriage ban (latimes.com)
57 points by evilswan on April 3, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

I don't want to condemn Brendan Eich until I've heard his side of the story, though I think he has almost certainly acted in a way that I can't approve of here. I'm disappointed by his donation, though no more disappointed than I am about any of the other donors - I don't expect higher standards of Brendan or Mozilla than I would of anyone else, and I think that people condemning him should remember that liking Mozilla's products is not contingent on liking the personal politics of people who work for Mozilla.

His personal views have no bearing on the work that Mozilla does, or his work as part of that. As a private individual he's entitled to his own views and to support those views with his own money, and I personally believe that society benefits from allowing a distinction between the personal and professional spheres. Brendan Eich the public figure should retain respect as a pivotal figure in the development of the web, even if Brendan Eich the private individual holds views that some (though by no means all) people find deeply objectionable.

As a programmer living in California whose foreign-same-sex-marriage is not recognized by the state... I'm halfway to setting up a Mozilla boycott. It's not Mozilla itself that gave the money, of course... its just their most visible (and well paid) employee.

You're entitled to boycott any company for any reason, however I would encourage you to reconsider your position. This is what you are asking of Mozilla:

1) To have a political position on this issue. 2) To enforce that political position on all of its employees.

#1 is somewhat reasonable (that is, it's a bit abnormal for a company to have a specific political position not related to their business but not completely unheard of), but #2 is very impractical and I would argue damaging.

I understand where you're coming from with point 2. It can be very damaging for a company. Firing people because they're a Democrat or a Republican (or forcing all your employees to vote for Romney or Santorum) is going to get you in trouble, and quickly.

However, I believe the split here comes whether this is a "political issue" or a "human rights issue". In my opinion, it's human rights. And I believe any company should ensure that its employees are not fighting against equality. I guess this also ties into equality for its employees. I assume there are LGBT employees of Mozilla, and I think they must feel pretty uncomfortable right now.

Unfortunately (again, in my opinion, etc.), it's treated as a political standpoint, something that big parties can argue about. But it isn't - it's about whether LGBT individuals have the same rights as straight people.

(Obviously, this instance can be taken solely as a political issue - donating to a political campaign. However, I think the underlying human rights issue is still there. This is an assumption. Mr Eich could have donated for purely political reasons... but I find that difficult to comprehend.)

He could have donated for religious reasons. Prop. 8 was supported by the Catholic Church, the Mormons, orthodox Jews, and many evangelical churches.

Brendan Eich is not the only one working at Mozilla who is making the LGBT and non-troglodite employees and volunteers feel uncomfortable.

Brendan refuses to address the issue and share his side of the story. But at least Brendan's colleague Gervase Markham at Mozilla had the guts to publicly publish and attempt to explain his hateful bigoted beliefs about gay marriage, and not censor the comments that people left on his blog, even if he ignored all the valid arguments that he had no answer to (which was most of them).


I'm very disappointed to discover that Eich holds such beliefs, and it definitely makes me look at Mozilla a bit differently. However, note that total donations from all Mozilla employees do favor the opposition[1]. A small consolation, perhaps. I hope that Eich comes out and addresses this directly--when you're the founder and public face of a large and respected company, your association with the company means you must be held to different standards than the typical private citizen.

[1] http://projects.latimes.com/prop8/results/?position=both&...

That doesn't mean they "endorse" it.

As a Mozilla employee that strongly supports the right of all persons to marry, let me be the first to say: who the hell cares? At the end of the day, what he believes doesn't matter to me or anyone else.

I think something like this should be relevant. Social pressure is a good way to encourage someone to discard outdated beliefs like this.

If he had donated $1000 to a fund opposing inter-racial marriage, or to a fund opposing voting rights for a class of citizens, would you still feel the same way?

"...outdated beliefs..." I didn't know ethical decisions had an expiration date.

If he had donated $1000 to a fund opposing inter-racial marriage…

Bravo. This is exactly the argument we should make. If he had donated to pass an anti-miscegenation law, we would all know it was wrong.

You're free to believe whatever you want. You're free to believe men and women marrying men and women is wrong. You're free to believe that whites marrying blacks is wrong. It IS supposed to be a free country.

But when you donate to pass a law about it, it changes from belief to infringement on rights.

Recall the volley of stories about sexism in tech and the ensuing discussions on HN over the last couple of weeks. A lot of people on HN seemed to care about those and what those people believed.

This is not to promote a particular viewpoint, other than.. well, it seems people do care about what other people's beliefs are, even on HN.

I sincerely don't see the problem. I think those opposed to Prop 8 should demonstrate a bit more tolerance to everybody who may not agree with them.

Now if the $1,000 went towards Westboro Baptist Church, so that they could lash out and call people "faggots", then I would be a bit upset.

You and I might disagree on tax policy... that's fine! We might disagree on flavors of ice cream too! We're still fine. But, when you say that I have no right to call my husband my husband. And the very idea that I have a loving relationship with him that the government might recognize and treat equally with a same-sex couple. That very idea prompts you to go google for "nom", then find the donation page, you then have to go get your wallet, you then have to fill out the form on the site, then you type in the credit card number (check it twice!), you then click donate. All of that action was precipitated by the very thought of me and my husband being married. Remember, Prop 8 happened after gay marriage was legal in California. I'm far less offended by Westboro, because they have no concept of what they are doing. They function in a crazy world that is separate from ours. To know that a fellow language inventor has such feeling about me... that is hard to describe... and is different than a normal political disagreeance.

Maybe this is being overprecise and I share your viewpoint here, but singling out Brendan is perhaps best left until he shares his side of the story. This could be a mistake/error in accounting. I don't know how the US donation system works and if that's likely at all, but..

Of course, if it isn't a mistake, I totally agree. I just find something published by the LA Times to be.. well.. not a real guarantee of authenticity.

Brendan refuses to share his side of the story. I asked him on his Facebook page and in a personal message, and he deleted the post and blocked me.

Friends of mine who know him say that Brendan subscribes to a lot of crazy ideas. So no, it's not a big misunderstanding that he supports Proposition 8 and hates gays.

I need to be more tolerant towards people who think I don't deserve legal equality because of who I'm sexually and romantically attracted to? Sorry, that's a hard sell.

From "Brendan Eich, Prop 8 and homophobia" at http://blog.tommorris.org/post/20456932620/brendan-eich-prop... :

Now, I know it’s very difficult for people to understand, but there’s a very simple and easy way to never be called a bigot or a homophobe: don’t do bigoted or homophobic shit, like, for instance, giving money to a campaign to deny people basic human rights on the basis of their sexual orientation.


A few people expressing their disappointment with Brendan’s actions on Twitter and other sites is absolutely not anything like bigotry. Saying it is means you don’t understand. That’s what makes me most angry: that people don’t fucking listen to people in the LGBT community or seem to understand the reason why we are angry.

And, no, you don’t get to tell me to calm down or that I need to “tolerate” people who are oppressing people in my situation. No, sorry, that’s worse than supporting Prop 8. Homophobia? Sure. Whatever. That sucks and makes you stupid and disappointing. Telling me that I have to keep my trap shut about oppression because the oppressors are actually the oppressed… that’s just grade A bullshit.

This isn’t Fox News with all that “there are two sides and the truth is somewhere in the middle” crap.

Brendan Eich’s actions are homophobic and disappointing.


Lack of equal rights does material harm to gay people. People are not able to live with their partners due to shitty immigration laws or access health services. Lack of equality in law permits every minor-league bigot from the schoolroom to the boardroom the feeling they have a right to tease and torment. When the suicides stop and the violence stops, maybe we’ll talk about how the homophobes are the victims too. Until then, in order to seem fair and balanced and above-the-fray, people miss the whole reason why this is an issue.

Eich is not just the inventor of Javascript, he's also the CTO of an organization that prides itself on being open and tolerant. I really can't support an organization where the CTO supports bills that cause the opposite.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I have no interest in what another party believes, but when they actively contribute money and resources to legitimize discrimination and persecution against a group of people, I'll make it my business to work against them in the form of public shaming, boycott or financial contributions of my own to make it stop.

This isn't really an HN topic, is it?

Also, anyone can fucking donate to whoever they want. Notice in the "name" column it says "Brendan Elch", not "Mozilla, Inc." What he does with his money is his business.

It says "Mozilla" right beside his name. I think most people would have less of an issue of he donated without stating his employer.

In the US, currently, if an individual donates more than $200 to certain types of political campaigns, that individual's name, address, occupation and employer must be included in campaign finance disclosures. $1000 > $200, so that's why the information is there.

As an aside: my previous job was in journalism, and generally in that field there's a (self-enforced) ethical code against making such donations largely because the employer's name is disclosed and could lead people to assume endorsement by a news outlet.

I don't know much about the law here, but isn't it required that you make such information public? That is, isn't that part of how campaign donations are tracked and regulated?

The assumption here is that there's no legitimate reason for supporting a gay marriage ban. Obviously A LOT of people disagree with that fundamental assumption, otherwise the potential ban wouldn't exist.

Personally, you have to address why the government is involved in marriage at all. From my understanding, it is for the purpose of encouraging the family unit and the perpetuation of society through offspring. Gay people can't have offspring unless you count lesbians and artificial insemination, but that takes the conversation down a whole other tangent.

My main point simply being, there are non-human-rights justifications for not endorsing / encouraging gay marriage, so judgment is premature.

By that logic, people who are infertile, have certain disabilities, or who don't plan to have children shouldn't be allowed to get married either. I'm not convinced those are similarly good reasons to restrict marriage.

One is a passive granting of rights for a purpose, the other is an active taking away of rights based on faulty reasoning.

Offering a conducive environment will always necessarily benefit others. If it didn't it'd simply be called a reward. Gay marriage proponents obviously call these assumptions into question, but unfortunately offer a worse alternative.

While there may be reasoning to support limiting marriage perks to those who procreate, that only hurts their argument that those benefits should instead be extended to gays who are least worth incentivizing.

There is no more infertile a couple than one that lacks the ability based not on imperfections, but upon their intrinsic biology.

Just removed Firefox for Ubuntu from my system. I've been using Firefox for 8 years under both Windows and Linux, and stuck with it despite all the bugs, but this is outrageous. I won't miss it. Chrome is far better.

This would fall under the heading of "political discussion".

Yet amazingly the 40,000 "OH HAI SEXISM" posts that blanketed HN for the last week don't?

That's at least arguing about whether or not the tech industry has a widespread issue. This is singling out one guy (whose best-known work already had a mixed reputation among nerds). Even if it turns out Mozilla really is being run by a reactionary religious zealot, it doesn't seem to affect their technical direction nor the use of their donated funds.

The guidelines http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html specifically call out politics as being off-topic.

No - this would fall under the heading of "human rights discussion".

A single person's donation to support a questionable proposition - I'm not sure that's a human rights discussion. In any case, neither of those are good web forum topics.

Mr Eich's personal beliefs are of no consequence; when his personal beliefs and his employer's name are connected, then there is a problem. I occasionally have used Firefox for searches. Mr Eich's proud display of hatred, using the Mozilla name on his contribution to Prop H8, contributes to my not using Mozilla again!

You may want to read this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3795704

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