Persecution, Mozilla, and Gay Rights

Who is the bully? Who is the victim? Is it former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich? Or is it the many LGBT people who might not have equal marriage rights?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard the story by now. Co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer of Mozilla Brendan Eich recently resigned from his new job as Chief Executive Officer. Why? In 2008, he donated $1000 to support California’s Proposition 8. The Proposition would have banned same-sex marriage. His donation caused such a backlash against Mozilla that Eich resigned.

Throughout the furor, Eich made conciliatory noises about the values of diversity and tolerance, but he did not abjure his political beliefs against gay marriage. For many in the tech community, such beliefs are tantamount to bigotry and politicized hatred. To be against gay marriage, for many folks (full disclosure: I include myself in this group), implies a willingness to deny equal legal rights to a category of people. This is the very definition of bigotry. Such a position, pro-gay-marriage activists insist, is akin to denying people the right to marry across the race line.

In short, by opposing gay marriage, Eich defined himself as a bully and a bigot. To oppose gay marriage, many felt, puts Eich and his ilk beyond the pale of civil society.

In the conservative intellectual community, of course, the shoe is on the other foot. Conservatives insist that the bullying is being done by the pro-gay-marriage crowd. How is it “tolerant,” conservatives ask, when successful business leaders are forced to step down strictly because of their political beliefs? The bigots here, conservatives argue, are those who won’t allow a true intellectual or political diversity. The real bullies, conservatives say, are those who won’t allow for any disagreement with their worldview.

As usual, one of the most perspicacious articulations of these positions came recently from Princeton’s Robert George. In the pages of First Thoughts, George argued the case that the victims here were religious folks. Anti-Eich-ism, George asserts, threatens to squeeze religious folks out of the public sphere entirely. As Professor George puts it,

Now that the bullies have Eich’s head as a trophy on their wall, they will put the heat on every other corporation and major employer. They will pressure them to refuse employment to those who decline to conform their views to the new orthodoxy. And you can also bet that it won’t end with same-sex marriage. Next, it will be support for the pro-life cause that will be treated as moral turpitude in the same way that support for marriage is treated. Do you believe in protecting unborn babies from being slain in the womb? Why, then: “You are a misogynist. You are a hater of women. You are a bigot. We can’t have a person like you working for our company.” And there will be other political and moral issues, too, that will be treated as litmus tests for eligibility for employment. The defenestration of Eich by people at Mozilla for dissenting from the new orthodoxy on marriage is just the beginning.

Are conservatives the victims here? Is it legitimate political activism to oppose same-sex marriage? Or is it bigotry and intolerance?

 

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13 Comments

  1. Bigotry, I say.

    Gay marriage is no detriment to anyone. It is in fact an advantage for Eich, as it educates him about human diversity. He sought to make life slightly more difficult for other people who did him no harm. Shame on him. Note, this is different to having an opinion: he took action to the detriment of gay people.

    Reply
  2. Tim Taylor

     /  April 6, 2014

    Throughout human history in hundreds of different cultures there have been dozens of different definitions of marriage, but the very large majority of them have been similar to the definition of a pair of scissors: “Part A and Part B, equivalent, but complementary parts, joined together, to form a new instrument which is biologically capable of doing something that neither Part A nor Part B could do by itself.” Wherever gay marriage is established, it necessarily changes the definition of “marriage” replacing the older set of concepts with a new definition: “Any two parts joined together.”

    The new definition must exclude any reference to the utility or function of the union. Admitting such a reference (i.e. “A pair of scissors is an instrument that can cut …” or the like) would definitionally exclude any instruments not designed or capable of performing such a function, and the point of establishing gay marriage is precisely to include, within the definition of married couples, couples that are physically incapable of being what married couples in western society (indeed in most of human society) have fundamentally been.

    Is it possible to conceive that people who see their own marriage in the old way – like a pair of scissors – could be upset at being told that the “scissorness” of their marriage isn’t now in legal reality, or in acutal fact, fundamentally what their marriage was all about? That definitionally it can’t be, not because that functionality or purpose of their marriage is no longer part of their reality, but rather because if that that functionally were admitted to be a fundamental or essential component of their marriage, that definition would exclude other couples who (through no fault of their own) are incapable of achieving that kind of union? Is it possible that people who have no animosity toward any other individual or group, no desire to disadvantage anyone, might still be offended by being told that their old way of thinking about and understanding one of the central relationships in their own personal life is definitionally wrong, no longer a legal reality, and actually bigoted?

    The biological reality is, and always will be, that no new children come into the world without a biological mom and a biological dad. When children are cared for and nurtured by both their mom and their dad, within a stable structure where mom and dad are both around, they do well. Maybe there is a public good in regulating structure into those human relationships that have the potential of generating children. Maybe there is a public good in legally endorsing the ideal the children need a mother to nurture and raise them. And that children need a father to nurture and raise them.

    There have been and always will be close friendships, intimate partnerships, business relationships, and a myriad of other socially constructed ways that humans interact with each other, with more or less structure and institution and tradition, with or without any sexual activity being involved. Is it possible to create legal frameworks that serve the mutual interests of gay or lesbian couples who wish to form lifelong partnerships without changing the fundamental definition of an institution that hundreds of millions of people, straight, gay (married to women), lesbian (married to men) etc. have already entered?

    Is it possible that people who simply care about our society as a whole, and the welfare of children in our society in general, might be concerned about the potential effects of fundamentally changing the definition of marriage? If marriage is simply “two parts joined together” without reference to any purpose or function of the joining, why should that new definition now be the authoritative definition? When the definition was: “two parts joined together to do a specific thing that couldn’t be done by either part on it’s own …” there was a logical connection between that and the older norms of marriage in western culture: that it be lifelong, that it be monogamous, that it be sexually exclusive. These norms provide stability and protection for the children born within the union. But if marriage has no essential core function, why should it be life-long? Why should it be simply be between two? Why should sexual exclusivity have anything to do with it, fundamentally? Indeed, many advocates of gay marriage don’t see value to any of those old norms, and on their terms why should they? But it’s easy to show that those norms have served well (statistically speaking) the children born into those marriages of the older definition. Is it possible that we are doing future children a disservice by in a legal sense eliminating the the older style of marriage and replacing it with a new kind of marriage that does not admit the old purpose or function?

    Can you favor the older definition of marriage on grounds other than mal-intent toward anyone? I think you can.

    And I think it’s unfair to accuse someone of being bigoted against a group just because they favor an older definition of marriage. They may or may not acutally be bigoted. But I think it’s possible to favor an older definition of marriage on grounds that are free from any bigotry.

    I’m okay with people arguing in favor of gay marriage along the lines of, for example, “Changing the definition will be better: the benefits will be great and the costs will be small.” That’s fine. Let’s look at the data together. Let’s look at the likely benefits (I acknowledge that there are some). Let’s look at the likely costs (I think they’re likely much larger than advocates often assume). Let’s come together to make a rational decision. Let’s find a solution that works for everyone, that harms the fewest.

    But those who say, “We’re not really changing the definition of marriage” make me crazy.

    And people who start the discussion by demonizing and delegitimzing the other point of view can certainly silence the other side. That really is effectively what’s going on right now. By casting the other side in that light, they can make the stakes too high for anyone with much to lose to even enter the discussion. That’s a way to win. But the victors are then deprived from any insight or honest criticism that the other side has to offer. And the victors have won without every persuading because they’ve never honestly engaged honest arguments. And that can sometimes lead to victories being undone later on down the line.

    Reply
  3. Agellius

     /  April 6, 2014

    I would not say it was illegitimate for Mozilla to fire Eich. It’s a private corporation after all. The point for me and many conservatives is that it’s absurd for homosexuals to claim they are being persecuted any more. Yes, they used to be, and yes, a lot of people think that “God hates fags”. But the point of a liberal democracy is supposed to be that there is no official right and wrong opinion, because once you drift into those waters, you have to answer the question “who decides?”.

    It used to be the Church who decided. But Americans said no, neither the Church nor anyone else gets to dictate opinion. Each of us figures it out for himself and is free to think and say what he likes, and that’s the law. The government’s job is to follow public opinion, not to dictate it.

    But then the progressives came along and said not only that, but people should not even tell each other that some things are right and some are wrong. No judging! If I want to be gay, I should be allowed to be gay openly without fear of censure.

    It’s now reached the point where anyone who says that being gay is wrong, is himself subject to censure. So it’s no longer, everyone is free to think and say what he likes. It’s now, it’s OK to censure what other people think and say, but only when they’re defending the traditional, received wisdom. People who reject the received wisdom are to be immune from censure.

    So we feel like one side gets to think and say what it likes, while the other must carefully guard what it says, unless and until it comes to agree with the new wisdom. The progressives are now the ones in power, not only in academia and government, but also, for the most part, in the corporate world. Not that there are no conservative CEOs, but those who are had better watch what they say.

    Maybe conservatives acted the same way when they were in power. Maybe you had to watch what you said, and conceal your non-traditional leanings, 50 years ago or more. But that’s not how it is anymore. The shoe is on the other foot. The point being, that it’s a bit rich for homosexuals who desire marriage to compare themselves to blacks before and during the civil rights movement, when they and their supporters are obviously the ones with the power.

    How many CEOs, I wonder, have been fired for donating to the No On Prop 8 campaign?

    Reply
  4. The most troubling aspect of this issue is the fact that the tax returns of Mr Eich were illegally leaked. This ought to trouble every tax payer.

    As to the resignation itself, we should consider carefully what ought to be a legitimate reason for a person to lose his livelihood. Is he bad at his job? Did he commit a crime in the performance of his job? Did he cost his employer financial loss due to his actions on the job? If a person is both competent and honest, why should he be fired or forced to resign? Is a particular viewpoint a justified reason to make him leave his place of employment, if that view has nothing to do with the purpose of the company for which he works?

    I am one who supports gay marriage, but I am disgusted by what happened at Mozilla. People are allowed to have opinions that personally repulse me, but I would never advocate for them losing their jobs over those opinions. America has always had a free and open marketplace of ideas. What is happening to that marketplace?

    Reply
  5. Lenoxus

     /  April 10, 2014

    No one ever cared so deeply about marriage requiring the ability to procreate until gay people entered the picture. Infertile couples didn’t used to get dirty looks if married, and they still don’t. That argument is just a cover for bigotry.

    Unless you would equally have no problem with Mozilla having a white supremacist CEO, you’re either hypocritical or otherwise in the wrong here.

    Reply
  6. Agellius

     /  April 10, 2014

    “No one ever cared so deeply about marriage requiring the ability to procreate until gay people entered the picture.”

    The Catholic Church always did. I agree with you that Christians should have been just as up-in-arms over no-fault divorce and birth control as they have been over gay marriage.

    When we (as a society) caved on those things is when we gave up on marriage as traditionally understood.

    Reply
  7. Agellius – I suppose that I still consider murder and other forms of violence a form of persecution and homosexuals certainly suffer more violence because of their sexual orientation than do heterosexuals because of theirs.

    Reply
    • Agellius

       /  April 10, 2014

      Douglas:

      My point is not who gets persecuted more, numerically. My point is that liberals have this illusion of themselves as being more tolerant and open to opposing points of view, merely by virtue of being liberal. This is so because they virtually define “liberalism” as “openmindedness”, therefore to be liberal is to be openminded by definition. But in fact, liberals are no more tolerant of opposing viewpoints than anyone else.

      There are of course exceptions. : )

      Reply
  8. I must have missed the part where George criticizes the American Family Association in their call for dozens of boycotts on companies that support equal marriage. Is it that those are okay because the efforts are not successful?

    Reply
  9. Agellius

     /  April 11, 2014

    Mark writes, “I must have missed the part where George criticizes the American Family Association in their call for dozens of boycotts on companies that support equal marriage. Is it that those are okay because the efforts are not successful?”

    A boycott of a company is very different from a demand that an individual be fired for a political donation. If a company does something that you find offensive, by all means boycott it.

    But Eich was fired not for anything the company did while he was at the helm, but for something he did as a private citizen. There was no indication that he had changed, or was planning to change the company’s policies on treatment of homosexuals; on the contrary, he bent over backward to assure people that he would do no such thing.

    This reminds me of A&E’s hasty firing of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty – again, not for anything he did on the show but for expressing his views in his private life.

    What this means, in effect, is that if you disagree with gay marriage, and aren’t smart enough to keep your views secret, you don’t deserve to have a job. How’s that for cramming your views down other people’s throats?

    (And people wonder why I blog pseudonymously.)

    Reply
  1. “Conservative Thought” or “Bigotry”? A Conservative Professor Makes Waves | I Love You but You're Going to Hell
  2. Conservative Warriors and Homosexuality | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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