Mozilla CEO steps down over anti-gay past


Under fire from all sides, Mozilla’s newly appointed CEO has stepped down over a donation he made in support of California’s former ban on same-sex marriage.

Brendan Eich speaks in San Diego, California, on Sept. 5, 2013.
Brendan Eich speaks in San Diego, California, on Sept. 5, 2013.
David Maung/Bloomberg/Getty

“Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO,” announced Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, on Thursday. “He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.”

Just 10 days ago, Eich was named chief executive at the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech firm, best known for developing the popular web browser Firefox. Among his qualifications, Eich created the programming language JavaScript, co-founded Mozilla, and served as the nonprofit organization’s chief technology officer.

But in 2008, Eich contributed $1,000 to the campaign for Proposition 8, which prohibited gay couples from marrying in the state of California until last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to collapse.

Though news of the donation broke in 2012, Eich’s promotion unleashed a renewed backlash with public condemnations from employees and boycotts from Firefox developers. On Monday, the online dating site OkCupid put out a message urging visitors not to use Mozilla software and offered links to alternate browsers. Half the company’s board that named Eich CEO left their positions in the wake of his hiring. In an interview with CNET, Eich said they stepped down for a variety of reasons unrelated to him.

Interestingly, Eich and Mozilla also drew criticism from a prominent anti-gay figure, Robert George, who co-founded the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). In a Facebook post last Sunday, George denounced the recent statements that Mozilla had made in support of same-sex marriage, ironically aimed at deflecting attacks not attracting them.

Eich had pledged his commitment to company policies that ensure LGBT equality, but he refused to answer a hypothetical question about whether he’d donate to Prop 8 today, telling CNET it’s a “dead issue.”

Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, penned her own blog post unequivocally stating that “Mozilla supports equality for all, explicitly including LGBT equality and marriage equality.”

She did not name a new CEO on Thursday, saying that the future of “Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed.”