New Mozilla CEO Tries to Control ‘Gay Marriage Firestorm’

Brendan-EichIn case you missed it (and you probably didn’t), Mozilla’s incoming CEO Brendan Eich has weathered a bit of criticism thanks to a 2008 donation to a group supporting Prop 8, the law that outlawed same-sex marriage in the state of California.

While Mozilla released a corporate statement reaffirming its support for “equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples”, other companies like OkCupid turned the issue into a cause.

Mozilla employees also made their disapproval quite clear on social.

In order to help confirm earlier statements about “inclusiveness” and downplay the debate, Eich spoke to CNET’s Stephen Shankland this week.

Some quotes from that conversation, which is worth a read as a case study in walking back previous stances:

“Mozilla has always worked according to principles of inclusiveness…everyone in our community can have different beliefs about all sorts of things that may be in conflict.”

“I’ve always treated people as they come…I’ve been as fair and inclusive as anyone — I think more.”

On the donation itself:

“…when people learned of the donation, they felt pain. I saw that in friends’ eyes, [friends] who are LGBT…”

Time for a big BUT:

“I don’t think it’s good for my integrity or Mozilla’s integrity to be pressured into changing a position.”

This is true in principle. One line of critique holds that calls for Eich to step down amount to the latest wave of aggressive “my way or the highway” political correctness.

Seen another way, however, a CEO’s choice to publicly demonstrate disrespect for a significant number of his own employees and customers will always cause a stir.

Eich is definitely taking steps:

“The first thing that’s coming up is to meet with somebody on staff, a supporter of me and in the LGBT community who’s working on a new project to bring in new people from that community…”

Yet he’s quick to defend himself:

“Beliefs that are protected, that include political and religious speech, are generally not something that can be held against even a CEO. “

Again, this is true in principle, yet any competent CEO knows that he or she bears a disproportionate responsibility for protecting the company’s reputation.

Eich is free to speak and donate as he pleases, but his words seem to contradict his actions. The unspoken “Some of my best friends and employees are gay but I don’t think they should be able to get married” line doesn’t sound very inclusive, does it?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.