I am a staunch supporter of gay rights. I have close friends, family, colleagues, clients, bridge partners, teammates, neighbors and others who happen to be gay. Yet, even if I knew few who were gay, I see no reason why someone should face discrimination due to their sexual orientation.
That being said.... Sometimes, rights collide.
People can actually be supportive of the rights of others, but disagree as to exactly how certain protections should be defined by law. In addition, we simply don't always view the world identically. And when we do not, what kind of sanctions, public or private, should be levied against those with whom we do disagree?
Most are aware that the CEO and one of the founders of Mozilla, Brenden Eich, was forced to step down this past week. His crime? He gave a donation to California's Proposition 8, against gay marriage.
A number of my friends who also support gay rights think that this was an appropriate action on the part of Mozilla. I cannot help but wonder, however - do these same people realize that President Obama was clearly in the "Gay marriage should not be law, and my religion teaches me this" camp at the same time Eich made his donation? My guess is that most of these same people voted for Obama. If I am correct, then why aren't they upset that Obama is still leading our nation? And how could they vote for him?
I am a supporter of gay marriage; I worked toward laws for it in Minnesota that passed, and I am grateful that, irrespective of sexual orientation, every adult in our state now can marry the person they love. Still, I also share the thoughts expressed below. "If we cannot live and work alongside people with whom we deeply disagree, we are finished as a liberal society."
As I said last night, of course Mozilla has the right to purge a CEO because of his incorrect political views. Of course Eich was not stripped of his First Amendment rights. I’d fight till my last breath for Mozilla to retain that right. What I’m concerned with is the substantive reason for purging him. When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel? It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason. If we cannot live and work alongside people with whom we deeply disagree, we are finished as a liberal society…
Here’s what Eich said last month: “I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to ‘show, not tell’; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.” There is not a scintilla of evidence that he has ever discriminated against a single gay person at Mozilla; he was dedicated to continuing Mozilla’s inclusive policies; he was prepared to prove that the accusations against him were unfair, and that his political views would not affect his performance as CEO. But this was not enough. He had to be publicly punished for supporting a Proposition that is no longer in effect. This is absolutely McCarthyism from an increasingly McCarthyite left.