A Mozilla LGBTQ Postscript


There’s been a lot of activity in the Mozilla community over the past 36 hours regarding community standards, free speech issues, and LGBTQ issues.

It’s great to see these conversations happening; I believe this is precisely what should happen in a community when disagreement arises.

One aspect continues to confuse me1: many of those discussing the issue seem to hold a position predicated on the assumption that Mozilla has claimed support for LGBTQ individuals or (more specifically) same-sex marriage.

I can find no documented substance to this assumption2.

Not to call out the pink3 elephant in the room, but in 2008, when the California constitutional amendment involving the issue, Proposition 8, was on the ballot, a number of companies, including Apple, Google, and “numerous biotech companies4 all very publicly stated their official position against the proposition5,6.

Mozilla Corporation abdicated taking a position7.

It’s an open “secret” that Mozilla Foundation board member and Corporation CTO Brendan Eich donated money to support the proposition8.

Mozilla, last I knew, does not have any additional protections, stipulations, or benefits9 for LGBTQ individuals not already required by California law.

So when I read statements like…

Tim saying:

I’m embarrassed to work for Mozilla right now.

Or Christie saying:

Many members of the community, including myself, as well as members of the general public consider Planet Mozilla a Mozilla news source… . We wouldn’t allow hate-speech there and, we shouldn’t tolerate it on Planet, either. Right now, I feel unsafe and unwelcome at Mozilla.

Or Tim (later) saying:

I feel that my contributions considered less important because I’m queer. If it’s so important to Mozilla to allow speech like Gerv’s speech under the Mozilla banner that it’s worth discarding a percentage of the contributions made by queer and ally employees, then I guess that’s not my decision to make, though I would wonder why and who is accountable for making that trade.”

Or Lukas saying:

It seems like we protect our visual brand identity more than we protect what the Mozilla values appear to be when we refuse to set a minimum code of conduct for participation in our community. Who are we protecting when we do that? Who’s life is enriched by the inclusion of posts that support bigoted points of view?

Or Matej saying:

The point is that it appeared on Planet, which could easily be seen by the general public as an official Mozilla channel that supports the points of view it distributes.

Or Justin saying:

I’d never felt more unwelcome or had my trust broken in a Mozilla setting like that before. I don’t care whether it’s called “hate speech” or “a valid opinion” or whatever, I never want to feel like that again in a Mozilla environment.

Or Al saying:

One thing that I cannot abide is prejudicial actions within that community which go against its basic ethos of inclusiveness and betterment for the good of all.

Or Graydon saying:

Gerv just announced to the internet, using my company’s resources, that my mom isn’t married. And my company is now supporting Gerv’s continued use of our resources (domain name, trademarks, hardware, bandwidth) this way. What shall I tell my mom when I next visit her? “Hi mom, say, did you see that bit where my company endorsed homophobic abuse to deprive you of your marriage?

Or Gregg saying:

That this particular impoliteness carries Mozilla’s domain name and branding is the biggest bummer of all. I want to be proud of my company and my community, and I am not right now.

… I can certainly understand how they all could feel that way.

But given the above history, it’s probably worth examining the assumptions on which those positions are based, and separating out “how Mozilla actually is” from “how we think Mozilla is, and how we would like Mozilla to be.”

If we’re truly concerned about Mozilla’s level of inclusiveness, stance on civil rights, and support for LGBTQ (community) members, then I think it’s clear that a community member’s post on Planet isn’t the first place to be focusing energies.

1 Which was hinted at in comments on my previous post
3 *cough*
4 I learned something new!
5 Thus, in support of same-sex marriage. Or, at least, not in support of defining marriage into law
6 Today, both Microsoft and Amazon publicly support marriage equality in their home states
7 As did the Mozilla Foundation; but there may be 501(c)(3) requirements involved there
8 Which, to be very clear, is entirely his right, and I am not herein stating a personal opinion on this fact; I am merely reporting it as such, and only in the contexts of inclusion with other Silicon Valley executives’ public statements in the record and one possible explanation why Mozilla may not have followed other technology companies
9 e.g. health coverage for domestic partners