Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Andrew Sullivan grasping at straws

This is a response to an Andrew Sullivan blog post .

Quote :

"The choice was either civil marriage or civil unions with all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. Now I have long argued that civil unions are no substitute for civil marriage – but am I prepared to say that everyone who disagrees with me is motivated by the kind of rank bigotry that Sterling represents? Of course not. That was the position of the Human Rights Campaign for many years, after all. They may be tools, opportunists, resource-hoggers and credit-grabbers, but they’re not bigots."
A few corrections are in order :
  1. there have never been any civil unions in California. There are domestic partnerships. Please be historically accurate.
  2. California registered domestic partnerships (RDP) didn't actually offer all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. There are a few differences, most significantly, the requirement that both partners must reside together at the same address in order to enter into a domestic partnership.
    Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_partnership_in_California#Differences_from_marriage
    This caused some to be excluded from CA RDP, notably prisoners, which could still enter into a civil marriage.This may sound like a small difference, but it is actually significant in light of this case :
    This common residency requirement for RDPs existed back in 2008 at the time of the Proposition 8 campaign, but has apparently been lifted since
  3. CA RDP did not enjoy much recognition outside of California, especially not in other countries, whereas CA same-sex marriages did. Most significantly, those who entered into a CA RDP never got any federal recognition. The 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California got federal recognition in retrospect in light of the Windsor case . While that may not be a state-accorded right, but it is definitely one very important benefit of marriage that CA RDPs lack.
  4. Therefore, the actual choice that was on the ballot in CA's 2008 Proposition 8 was :
    Keep both the superior CA civil marriage and the inferior CA registered domestic partnerships
    for same-sex couples in California.
    Eliminate the existing right to a CA civil marriage, and keep only the inferior CA RDP as an option for same-sex couples in California.
  5. Whatever you may think of HRC, they never advocated voting for Prop 8 and eliminating the rights to a civil marriage from same-sex marriage in California.  HRC actually gave $2,057,981 to "No on 8". It is simply a lie to interpret HRC's past positions as supporting Proposition 8. In reality, HRC never advocated the elimination of rights to a same-sex civil marriage for anyone, in any state, at any time. 
  6. In my opinion, anyone who donated to "Yes on 8" and thus contributed to successfully taking away civil rights was, indeed, an anti-gay bigot, unless proven otherwise.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

About the Mozilla CEO resignation

There has been much news over the last week about Mozilla .
See http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/04/03/3422750/mozilla-ceo-steps-down-after-backlash/  .
Here is my take.

Prop 8. was passed after an extremely deceitful campaign. The "Yes on 8" TV ads were blatant lies, and just horrible. Even some of my low-information, non-voting, gay friends who say them thought they should vote for prop 8 after seeing them.
Prop 8 was unlike all other state constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, because it revoked rights that were already legally recognized.

I was deprived of the rights to marry my partner in California for many years, as many other LGBT couples were. Brendan Eich contributed $1000 towards that campaign. Unlike the 52% of the California electorate who voted for Prop 8 in 2008, this contribution was not the mere expression of an opinion, but something he actively did to influence the result of the referendum that stripped me and others of rights. While the Supreme Court declared in "Citizens United" that money is speech, I don't accept that.
I cannot simply ignore that he made that this contribution. Neither do I think the rest of the world can. I think some backlash against Brendan Eich is entirely warranted.

Whether backlash against him should translate to a Firefox boycott is much more debatable. For better or worse, a CEO represents the corporation, and his political opinions cannot be merely considered private matters. I believe CEOs should be held to a higher standard than lower-level, non-management positions. In this particular case, Brendan Eich was already in a high-level position, as a co-founder of Mozilla, and previously CTO. He was not recently hired, but merely internally promoted to CEO. His "Yes on prop 8 "donation was uncovered years ago, and did not make headlines as big then as now. The Mozilla board probably underestimated how big of an issue this would become after his promotion.

There is no evidence that he has taken discriminatory actions against Mozilla LGBT employees in the past. He has promised that he would not do so either as CEO in the future.
However, he has never publicly discussed his reasons for funding Prop 8 in the past, and there is no evidence that he has changed his mind on the subject. If he did, I believe he would have told the world already, and ended the controversy already.
In my mind, it is difficult to reconcile having funded Prop 8 and not being an anti-gay bigot. While many were deceived by their churches and very strongly encouraged to fund Prop 8, we don't know if that was the case here. I believe he would have said so as well if this was the case. That leaves with him having been and still being an anti-gay bigot as the sole explanation for the funding Prop 8. He is certainly entitled to his bigoted beliefs. But free speech under the First amendment only means it is free of repercussions from the government, not from individual citizens. A boycott certainly falls under free speech as well. Several Mozilla employees have called for him to step down from his CEO role last week.

I'm a long-time contributor to the Mozilla project, including 9 years working on the NSS security library - but never as a Mozilla employee. I certainly don't want to see the Mozilla project disappear into oblivion. I am glad the controversy ended, before the damage to Mozilla and Firefox became irreparable. Having Brendan step down from the CEO role was the best outcome.

Of course, Brendan's $1000 contribution towards Prop 8 was relatively small, considering the $40 million+ spent on each side. I incidentally also donated $1000 to "No on Prop 8" - the same amount he gave to "Yes on 8". But I'm proud of having done so.
Other CEOs have contributed to anti-gay causes, even in tech . When AOL acquired Netscape, Steve Case donated millions to anti-gay organizations, all the while paying Netscape/AOL employees to contribute to the Mozilla project .
And obviously, companies like Chik-Fil-A, Barilla, Wal-Mart, Exxon, and their CEOs have done much worse.
In that light, the recent reaction to the new Mozilla CEO may be overblown.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much intolerance we can tolerate. I think it's a good thing that the bigots are being pushed into the closet, for a change. I worry that many will still continue to promote their bigotry anonymously, however.

As someone who is in an interracial, same-sex marriage, I would certainly be just as upset if he had donated to a group that opposed interracial marriage. I suspect the rest of the world would be more upset about it than about his donation to "Yes on prop 8".

There is a line between political opinions and human rights. Most people nowadays recognize that racism affects human rights and is not just a mere political opinion.
Many people, but not as many, also recognize that LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, are human rights as well.
Hopefully In 50 years, there will be as few homophobes as there are racists today, but that will still be too many.