In our Republic, there have always been extremely divisive cultural debates. When the US was founded, the Federalist and the Antifederalists battled in the arena of public opinion for generations and many of the issues they brought up are still being debated today. During the 1830s, a pressing issue was the regulation of banks due to their wild speculation. Slavery was a hard-fought issue that took a civil war to resolve. During reconstruction, the debate about what is appropriate restrictions on the South which was both a defeated enemy and a purported member of the Union. In the 1910s, the decision about whether to join the war in Europe was hotly debated and eventually Woodrow Wilson told some bold-faced lies and then had the united States Join World War 1.
Into the 1920s prohibition took center stage and with the growth of organized crime, we had to wrestle with the notion of the Federal Government prosecuting crimes that the local governments would not. The 1930s was a long debate over whose fault the Great Depression was (the consensus was that Herbert Hoover was at least partly to blame). The 1950s and 60s were dominated by a new discussion on civil rights for African Americans and later other minority groups as well. The 1970s brought the very divisive debate about abortion with the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U. S. Supreme Court.
Of course, many of these divisive issues remain divisive to this day. A temptation on both sides of these debates was to find ways to silence your opponents. The Sedition Act of 1918 was a law specifically designed to silence opponents of World War 1. The lynchings that occurred through the early 20th Century were specifically designed to silence and pacify African Americans. Many times it is much easier to silence you opponent than it is to compete with them in market of ideas.
It is tempting to think that we have moved beyond such immature ways of dealing with others ideas. The Freedom of Speech has become firmly established in our society and laws like The Sedition Act of 1918 would never be upheld by the Supreme Court today. Additionally, many times when free speech is limited, there is a reporter or blogger who takes up the cause and, as a rule, we respond by encouraging free speech.
It recently came to light that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 (a Constitutional Amendment in California which would effectively ban Gay Marriage). He was expressing his opinion in a difficult national debate with intelligent and thoughtful people on both sides. He supported his position with a modest donation and life went on.
Mr. Eich was recently appointed to the CEO of Mozilla only getting the position on March 24th. In response to that, a dating website named OkCupid sent this message to it’s users.
Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid.
This is a hot-button issue so it made some press.
So Mozilla fired Mr. Eich.
I am having a very hard time understanding how you can fire someone for what they think in the name of tolerance and diversity. Let’s turn the tables and imagine the firestorm that would occur is someone was fired for supporting gay marriage. I think they might be prosecuted for a hate-crime. This would be labeled as bigoted, homophobic, and intolerant.
Are the arguments for gay marriage so weak that its advocates need to punish and silence? For a tolerant and diverse bunch, are gay marriage advocates so brittle and fragile they cannot tolerate someone donating a modest sum of money to groups that oppose them? Maybe we should just fire everyone who disagrees with them. Would that be progress in this difficult debate?
I think much of the gay community will agree that we should not fire people who disagree with them. I don’t believe that most of them would have asked for Mr. Eich to be fired. But this was the result and it surely will cause leading business figures who are against gay marriage to think twice before they say so publicly. We all remember when Dan Cathy dared to say he opposed gay marriage. Chic-fil-A, which has been unashamed of being run with a Christian philosophy, was the center of a media firestorm.
Whatever the intentions, what will happen now is that prominent leaders will be more reluctant to discuss gay marriage. The advocates for gay marriage have become what they hated. They have fought for decades for equal employment opportunities for gay people yet have now allowed a situation where they advocate firing people they don’t like. they have gone from being the oppressed to being the oppressors.
To be honest, this makes them look weak. Apparently gay people are such a fragile bunch that even the hint that someone might not like them is justification for destroying that persons livelihood.
To be clear, I don’t think gay people are that mean or that weak as a whole. Which is why I am asking that gay people work hard to not allow this sort of thing to happen again. I am working hard to advocate for kind treatment of gay people by Christians. I am working and persuading my own community to love gay people despite disagreeing with them.
I hope gay people will do the same for us.