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Mozilla CEO quits over “anti-gay” controversy

by on04 April 2014

Thou shalt not back anti-gay marriage law

Brendan Eich is resigning as CEO of for-profit Mozilla Corporation and the nonprofit foundation board which wholly owns it following an backlash from staff and customers. Eich had insisted that he would not step down from the job over anger about a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 in support of the ballot measure to ban gay marriage.

He said that he did not want to talk about his personal beliefs because he kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years. Eich said he did not believe they were relevant. Mozilla customers disagreed and so did many of his staff.

Mozilla confirmed the change in a blog post and said:

“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves,” read the post, in part. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

In an interview this morning, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said that Eich’s ability to lead had been damaged and that was crucial to the role of CEO. However Eich, who created the JavaScript programming language, among other prominent computing achievements had not been forced to resign by her or others on its board.

“I think there has been pressure from all sides, of course, but this is Brendan’s decision,” Baker said. “Given the circumstances, this is not surprising.” Baker said that she had not known about Eich’s views on gay marriage throughout most of their working relationship, until the donation came to light last year. “That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” she said.

Baker said she was “doing a fair amount of self-reflection and was wondering how did she missed it that this would matter more when he was the CEO.” 

Preserving Mozilla’s integrity was paramount, she said, especially since “we are heading into a period of global mass surveillance and the role of those fighting against will be more important than ever.” Baker said there was not another leading candidate for the CEO role as yet, although Mozilla had been conducting an extensive search using Spencer Stuart before the Eich selection, which also included another internal candidate, Jay Sullivan.

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