Brendan Eich, who co-founded Mozilla in the late 1990s and served as its chief technologist for several years, was named the company's CEO in March. But controversy erupted almost immediately when it was revealed that in 2008 Eich had donated $1,000 to California's Proposition 8, the grassroots initiative that led to a voter-approved state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
According to the Guardian newspaper, in the early 1990s Eich also contributed $1,000 to the presidential campaign of Patrick Buchanan, and between 1996 and 1998 donated a total of $2,500 to Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
The news about Eich's personal opinions prompted a core of homosexual activists associated with Mozilla to demand that the company and foundation remove Eich because of his “hateful” attitude toward gays. Among those leading the attack was Hampton Catlin, a software developer who founded the tech firm Rarebit with his gay partner Michael Lintorn Catlin. Catlin was quoted by the Guardian as saying that as a “gay couple who were unable to get married in California until recently,” he and partner Michael refused to “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.”
While Eich expressed “sorrow” for causing pain over his support of traditional marriage, and insisted that he was committed “to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla,” such rhetoric was insufficient to stem the tide of opinion against him. On April 3, Mozilla announced that “Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.”
Eich himself said that Mozilla's “mission is bigger than any one of us, and under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader. I will be taking time before I decide what to do next.”
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