Mozilla CEO resigns amid debate over same-sex marriage

New York TimesApril 3, 2014 

A little more than a week after becoming chief executive of Mozilla Corp., Brendan Eich is stepping down after an intense debate over his belief that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry.

After his appointment as the software company’s new chief, Eich came under heavy fire from employees and the public for making a $1,000 contribution in 2008 to support a ban on same-sex marriage in California under Proposition 8.

In an interview Tuesday, Eich defended his views, saying he was capable of separating his personal beliefs from those of the business he is running. Mozilla makes the popular Firefox Web browser and is considered a pioneer in open source, a collective development process now common in the tech industry.

When asked Tuesday whether he might resign, he said that he would leave it up to the Mozilla board to decide.

“I serve at the pleasure of the board. I would have them ask me to step down,” he said. “Until then, I have to be CEO 100 percent.”

In a blog post on the company’s website, Mitchell Baker, the executive chairwoman of Mozilla, said Mozilla did not act quickly enough to respond to criticism of Eich.

“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act,” Baker said. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

While Baker did not say directly that Eich’s beliefs did not reflect the company’s ideals, she noted that Mozilla, based in Mountain View, Calif., is a company that promotes openness and equality.

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality,” she wrote. “Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”

Eich’s viewpoint on Proposition 8 appears to have been unusual in Silicon Valley. A number of tech executives and companies donated money to oppose the 2008 measure.

Since Eich was appointed chief executive, a number of current Mozilla employees took to Twitter to air their views about the board’s choice, with some employees even suggesting Eich should step down.

Mike Manning, a Mozilla spokesman, said that Eich would not be available for comment and that the company blog post would be the only statement made by Mozilla.

Baker said in the post that Mozilla had not yet decided who would take over the position of chief executive, and that the company’s board would meet to discuss a new appointment.

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