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Mozilla CEO Gives 1st Interview, Refuses to Talk Gay Marriage Support

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Apr 2, 2014

Mozilla's new CEO Brendan Eich gave his first interview since sparking a controversy last month after it was revealed that he donated $1,000 in 2008 to a campaign that supported Proposition 8.

In an exclusive interview with CNET, Eich echoes the message he wrote in a blog post recently: he doesn't elaborate on his personal views and refuses to say if he's had a change of heart on gay marriage in the last six years. He does, however, reiterate that he is sorry for hurting anyone from the LGBT community.

CNET writes: "Though Eich refuses to discuss his own beliefs explicitly or say whether they've changed, he disagreed with the assertion that being opposed to gay-marriage rights is equivalent to being sexist or racist, and he said political and religious speech is still protected."

CNET asked Eich if he thought his anti-gay donation would cause a controversy. The CEO said he wasn't sure and that he's "been as fair and inclusive as anyone -- I think more. I intend to be even more so as CEO because I agree there's an obligation to reach out to people who for whatever reason are marginalized."

Hampton Catlin and his husband Michael Lintorn Catlin, who co-founded app developer Rarebit, called for a boycott against Mozilla, which makes the popular web browser Firefox, until Eich either comes out in support for gay marriage or he resigns. Last week, dating website OKCupid followed suit, urging its users to switch to a different browser.

CNET asked Eich what message he has for those who are calling for his resignation or for him to announce his support for same-sex marriage.

"Two things. One is -- without getting into my personal beliefs, which I separate from my Mozilla work -- when people learned of the donation, they felt pain," he said. "I saw that in friends' eyes, [friends] who are LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered]. I saw that in 2012. I am sorry for causing that pain."

He then added: "If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we'll probably fail... I would encourage people to think about that, even if they have a hard time understanding me or meeting me at the Mozilla mission and working on the common cause."

Eich later said he Mozilla officials are currently in talks with OKCupid about their decision. He also spoke with one of the two Rarebit developers, saying their meeting went well but that he’s "not going to speak for him."

"What started a week and a day ago has changed. It’s not for him the same as it was," he said. "For everyone involved in this a week ago, if they start to see things go big in a way that could mean the end of Mozilla, the loss of the principles of inclusiveness, a world without Firefox, they have concerns that transcend the concern about me."

When asked if he would donate to a Proposition 8 cause today, the CEO responded by saying it’s a "dead issue" and that he "doesn’t want to answer hypotheticals."

"Separating personal beliefs here is the real key here. The threat we’re facing isn’t to me or my reputation, it’s to Mozilla," Eich told CNET.

When the tech website asked Eich about his gay marriage views point blank, the software company CEO said: "I prefer not to talk about my beliefs."

Finally, Eich was asked if he thinks the controversy is "an existential threat to Mozilla."

He replied:

"I don’t know. If it is, the vision of Mozilla will be lost. I don’t think anyone else will carry the user-first agenda above all other considerations. I understand big commercial corporations can’t do it. They have to ultimately answer to their shareholders. They can have founders with large shares and that can say they’re willing to take a hit in order to be long-term thinkers, and I admire that, but in no way can they do what Mozilla does. We bled for the user. We did Firefox when nobody thought the browser was a competitive market or ever would be again. We did Firefox OS when people said there was no need for a mobile OS, but there was obviously a gap below the market. And we’re doing a user-centric approach to services that involve identity and choice and control of data. Mozilla has to uphold its principles, has to have integrity to advance its mission.

...If we get our message out about inclusiveness and how Mozilla cannot succeed without being truly globally inclusive, then we’ll have trouble. I expect I’ll be helpful there, too, in the long run. We’re in a struggle now, but if we get through it, we’ll be stronger for it. That’s been true of all our struggles at Mozilla."

You can read the full interview here.


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