Should Mozilla’s CEO’s Support for Banning Same Sex Marriage Cost Him His Job?

Update: Sorry for the spoiler.  Mozilla’s CEO resigned.  Still, a lesson to be learned on separating your personal beliefs from your role as a leader…especially when it comes to other people’s rights.

There’s a _hit storm in full rage at Mozilla, the maker of the browser Firefox.

Seems their newly appointed CEO, Brendan Eich, who co-founded Mozilla, gave $1000 to the failed Proposition 8 campaign in California that wanted to ban same-sex marriage by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Mozilla employees and now websites like OKCupid, an online dating site, are publicly admonishing Eich and Mozilla. In Fact, OKCupid has asked its nearly one million users a day to download a different browser than Firefox to access their site.

The message from OkCupid about Mozilla.

“Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.” OK Cupid

Others are arguing that Eich has a right to “free speech”.  But, as the head of a company, this issue cuts much deeper. Geoffrey MacDougall, head of development for Mozilla, said it well:

“The free speech argument is that we have no right to force anyone to think anything. We have no right to prevent people from pursuing their lives based on their beliefs. That what matters is their actions. And as long as they act in the best interests of the mission, as long as they don’t impose their beliefs on those around them, they are welcome.

The equality argument is that this isn’t a matter of speech. That believing that 1/n of us aren’t entitled to the same rights as the rest of us isn’t a ‘belief’. That the right to speech is only truly universal if everyone is equal, first.

Both sides are well represented inside Mozilla. Often by the same, conflicted people.

Our current situation is forcing us to choose between them.”

In this age of social media and data that never disappears, leaders have to hold themselves in a leadership position before they get there.  That means knowing that their point of view will be sliced and diced by employees.  Who doesn’t want to know what the new boss likes or doesn’t? “Will I be in or out?”

Freedom of speech cuts both ways.  It’s great to share your point of view, but don’t be surprised when it bites you, especially if it’s found to be exclusionary and you’re on the wrong side of history.

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