A group of mostly gay-Republicans, and other signatories I’ve not heard of, issued an open letter on the far-right GOP Web site RealClearPolitics, defending anti-gay Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who stepped down from his job recently.
Eich’s appointment, to head the California-based technology foundation that oversees the Firefox Web browser, caused a firestorm among Mozilla’s employees and board of directors. A number of employees spoke out against the hiring, and half the board of directors quit, leading Eich to finally resign.
Gay conservatives think this is a step too far, and they’re just not giving up, even though the story was over and done with weeks ago.
Brendan Eich’s offense
The problem Eich was confronted with? He donated $1,000 in 2008 to help pass California’s noxious Proposition 8 state consitutional amendment, that not only took a civil right to marry about from millions of gays and lesbians in California – a right they already had been granted – but Prop 8 also was intended to dissolve the pre-existing marriages of 18,000 legally-wed gay couples.
The gay conservative letter makes the same “mistake” that others have made on this issue, claiming that the issue at hand is a person’s position on gay marriage – a position, the gay conservatives say, most of America held in 2008:
He was pressured to leave because of personal political action he took at a time when a majority of the American public shared his view.
In fact, Eich’s position was not simply that he “opposed gay marriage” at the time.
Eich’s position was that existing civil rights should be repealed and taken away from millions of Californians — something unique, and uniquely evil, in the history of civil rights. Eich’s position was also that 18,000 marriages in California, many of which involved families with children, should be dissolved. I’d like to see the national polls from 2008 showing a majority of Americans believing that existing legal gay marriages, including families with children, should be dissolved by the state. That’s an entirely different matter than simply “having an opinion” on gay marriage.
Eich’s embrace of discrimination has not waned
There’s another interesting problem with the conservative letter. Even were we to grant them, arguendo, that Eich’s position was identical to the sentiment of a majority of Americans “at that time,” we’re not living any more in that time. We’re in 2014, not 2008. What is Brendan Eich’s position on gay marriage, and the dissolution of 18,000 legal gay nuptials, today? We don’t know because Brendan Eich wouldn’t say. And that, in and of itself, is telling.
The gay conservatives present this very standard – judge Eich by 2014, not 2008 – in their letter. And they think he’s fine now that it’s 2014:
There is no evidence that Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who resigned over his $1,000 donation to California’s Proposition 8 campaign, believed in or practiced any form of discrimination against Mozilla’s LGBT employees.
If past is prologue, Eich is on the cutting edge of anti-gay bias — not only holding an anti-gay position, but willing to plunk down $1,000 for one of the most of the extreme anti-gay positions, anti-gay actions, then or now.
And since Brendan Eich has not recanted his previous actions, one must assume he holds them even today. I would argue, that this is prima facie evidence of Brendan Eich’s willingness to discriminate. He was willing to discriminate to before and has yet to repudiate his discriminatory actions.
Had Brendan Eich recanted his previous actions — and since they were costing him his job, you’d think he’d have spoken up if his mind had changed — it would have been an entirely different ballgame. I’d have forgiven the man had he fessed up to a change of heart. But Brendan Eich never said any of that, he never said anything about changing his mind in 2014. One can only assume that Brendan Eich’s actions at that time would be replicated today, if given the chance.
Using the conservatives’ logic, since Eich is out of synch with the majority today, then it acceptable to hold Eich accountable for his current views and actions.
Do we truly not hold people accountable for past discriminatory actions?
Overall, the point the conservatives appear to be making is that, sure, we hold people accountable today for their racist views today, but we don’t hold them accountable for their views in the past (tell that to Paula Deen). But if that’s true, then they’re admitting that society does, and should, hold people accountable for their current bigoted views that run counter to the majority of the American public. And if that’s the standard, Brendan Eich meets it.
Of course, the entire argument is a bit specious. We should only hold bigots accountable when the majority doesn’t agree with them? Why is that exactly? Was segregation “understandable” because “you just had to be there”? “All the kids were doing it, you know.” I’m not sure I buy the underlying notion, but regardless, let’s buy it anyway, arguendo. Brendan Eich simply doesn’t meet the standard the conservatives set out for themselves, and for us.
And in any case, Brenda Eich has to date refused to recant his previous anti-gay actions, so we’re not talking history, we’re talking the present. There is no better window into how Brendan Eich would treat his gay employees than his current views on dissolving the civil rights, and legal marriages, of said employees.
There’s a reason Brendan Eich has refused to state his current views on having a majority of the public fiat the dissolution of 18,000 gay families. And it’s likely not because Brendan Eich’s current views exonerate him in their eyes.
Let’s not dumb-down Brendan Eich’s offenses
As I’ve written before, I’m sympathetic to concerns about over-reach. I have it on every single political advocacy campaign I work on. It’s a concern that good people have when they do work like ours. It’s a gut-check to ensure that you’re not targeting the wrong person, or over-targeting (doling out more punishment than is merited) to the right person. So I get the generic concern.
What I don’t get is the dumbing down of Brendan Eich’s offenses, which was perhaps understandable from straight allies who didn’t fully understand the issue at hand, but from gay allies, there’s really no excuse.
If Brendan Eich is such a good guy, then let him speak. Until then, we will judge him by his actions – not his opinions, his actions. And his actions to date, which has yet to repudiate, have been appalling.