LGBT Developers Boycott Firefox After Anti-Gay CEO Takes Office

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"LGBT Developers Boycott Firefox After Anti-Gay CEO Takes Office"

A sign celebrating 1 billion downloads posted at Mozilla's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters in 2009.

A sign celebrating 1 billion downloads posted at Mozilla’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters in 2009.

CREDIT: AP – Paul Sakuma

Firefox developers started boycotting Tuesday after the Web browser’s parent company Mozilla hired a new CEO with a history of opposing marriage equality.

The Mozilla Foundation, which funds the Firefox browser, announced Monday that the company’s co-founder Brendan Eich would take over as the new CEO. But in 2008, Eich made a personal $1,000 donation to support California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage statewide.

The Javascript creator’s hiring prompted a backlash from Mozilla employees and the general public. To protest Eich’s appointment, Firefox app developer Hampton Catlin told Mozilla in an open letter that he and his partner, who is also a Firefox developer, were boycotting all Firefox projects, “until Brendan Eich is completely removed from any day-to-day activities at Mozilla.” Catlin runs the tech startup Rarebit and had developed Wikipedia’s mobile site and the Dictionary! and Color Puzzle apps. He did not immediately return a request for comment.

The developers are pulling their apps from the marketplace and won’t issue updates to existing products. In a blog post, Catlin detailed how he and his partner were affected by Prop 8:

As a gay couple who were unable to get married in California until recently, we morally cannot support a Foundation that would not only leave someone with hateful views in power, but will give them a promotion and put them in charge of the entire organization. Many people are outraged in a political way, and Michael and I thank all of you for being so supportive. But, for us, this is very, very personal.

Many supporters of the boycott have taken to Twitter saying that they’re boycotting all Mozilla products and switching to Firefox’s competitor, Google Chrome. Ironically, Google is also Mozilla’s biggest revenue source thanks to royalties from a three-year deal that makes Google Firefox’s default search engine. Per the arrangement, Google paid Mozilla Foundation $274 million in 2012 — nearly 90 percent of the company’s annual revenue, according to its earnings report. The rest of Mozilla’s revenue comes from product sales. Google’s deal with Mozilla expires in November.

In a statement Mozilla released Tuesday, the company said it was “deeply committed to honoring diversity in sexual orientation and beliefs within our staff and community, across all the project’s activities,” emphasizing that it provides equal health care benefits to employees in same-sex partnerships. The response, however, didn’t mention the boycotts nor Eich’s promotion.

Eich hasn’t commented on the matter this week, but when news of his donation first surfaced in 2012, he said that he wasn’t going to engage in a public discussion over Prop 8 and that personal ideals are divorced from his professional work at Mozilla.

“People in any group or project of significant size and diversity will not agree on many crucial issues unrelated to the group or project,” Eich wrote in a blog post at the time, “so I do not insist that anyone agree with me on a great many things, including political issues, and I refrain from putting my personal beliefs in others’ way in all matters Mozilla, [JavaScript], and Web.”

Update

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich issued a statement Wednesday afternoon outlining his commitments to the company’s LGBT community. The statement didn’t comment on marriage equality or Eich’s Prop 8 donation, but instead specified how he would work with LGBT members and allies to advance the company’s anti-discrimination policies.

My personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult…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.

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