Culture & Entertainment

OkCupid's questionable victory against Mozilla for gay rights

By: Guest Blogger
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

OkCupid's questionable victory against Mozilla for gay rights

By: Guest Blogger

Rainbow flag Earlier this week, the popular online dating website OkCupid stepped rather boldly into the gay rights fray. On Tuesday morning, users who logged on were greeted with a message that read in part: “Pardon this interruption to your OkCupid experience […] 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.” The message went on to suggest that users switch to Safari, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome for all their browsing needs. The reason OkCupid targeted Eich is that, before becoming Mozilla CEO, he personally donated $1,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in California if the Supreme Court hadn’t later struck it down. The move by OkCupid set off a huge firestorm of controversy, of course, and by Thursday—rather shockingly—Brendan Eich had stepped down as CEO of Mozilla. Furthermore, Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker apologized to gay rights advocates in a blog post, writing that the company “didn’t move fast enough” to engage with the issue. “We’re sorry,” she wrote. “We must do better.” A lot of people are proclaiming this a huge win for gay rights, and maybe it is, but I have to say I’m not entirely convinced. As a gay man myself, I certainly believe gays deserve equal rights, including the right to marry if they want to. But as a journalist who’s instinctively wary of corporations throwing their political weight around and of the questionable tactic of publicly shaming individuals, I’m kind of uncomfortable with the whole thing. Defenders of OkCupid’s move say that this isn’t about Eich’s freedom of speech, and they’re right, to an extent. Donating money is not speech, it’s action—an action that directly impacts gay men and women—and thus an aggressive act. By supporting an anti-gay cause, say the defenders, Eich was no different from the white bigots who supported anti-black causes before desegregation. This is where I part ways. Much as I support the cause of gay marriage, I don’t consider a ban on gay marriage to be an evil tantamount to the lynching of blacks or the gassing of Jews. People can have complex reasons for not supporting gay marriage, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t support gay rights in other ways. It’s worth pointing out that Eich addressed all this last month in what struck me as a fairly sincere effort to build bridges. After outlining all the ways he planned to encourage inclusiveness at Mozilla, he wrote: “I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to ‘show, not tell’; and in the meantime, express my sorrow at having caused pain.” Assuming his words weren’t total BS, the guy actually seemed to be rethinking his attitudes, yet just a few weeks later OkCupid went ahead and publicly tarred and feathered him anyway. They weren’t interested in his personal contrition or his attempts to reach out—they just wanted to make an example of him. And that, to my mind, is not right, and it certainly isn’t taking the moral high road. But I don’t know—what do you readers think? ( Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)
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OkCupid's questionable victory against Mozilla for gay rights

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