Politics & Policy

Corrosive Conformity

Brendan Eich, while CEO of Mozilla

In 2008, Barack Obama and Brendan Eich both were against gay marriage. Senator Obama averred his support for the one-man/one-woman view of marriage, while Mr. Eich, a cofounder of the Mozilla web-browser company, donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8 — a California ballot initiative that had the effect of making Senator Obama’s avowed marriage policy the law in California, at least until a federal court overturned it on the theory that California’s constitution is unconstitutional. Barack Obama inexplicably remains, as of this writing, president of the United States of America, but Mr. Eich has just been forced out as CEO of Mozilla because of his political views.

The various tendencies that operate under the general heading of “gay rights” have had an extraordinary run of it in the past several years, in both the political and the cultural theaters. We now have a constitutional right to commit homosexual acts (Lawrence v. Texas), while Facebook offers at last count 56 different gender options to its users (trans with or without asterisk, genderqueer, neutrois, and two-spirit among them). Having won the battle in California, the sore winners are roaming the battlefield with bayonets and taking no prisoners. Mr. Eich’s donation had been a matter of public record for some years, but Eros is a jealous god, and he will have blood from time to time. Mr. Eich’s elevation to the chief executive’s position provided occasion for critics within his firm and without to make an example of him.

This is, of course, pure poison. This is not a matter of law but one of culture, and not a question of means but of ends. Mozilla, to say nothing of its partners and customers, is free under the law to hire and fire executives for almost any reason it sees fit (with exceptions; it surely would have faced civil-rights litigation if it had fired him for advocating gay marriage), and OKCupid, which boycotted Mozilla in protest of Mr. Eich’s views, is perfectly within its rights to do so, as were the protesting employees.

Or are they? The courts have held that bakers and photographers cannot withhold their services from gay nuptials, and California law forbids both discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment on religious or political grounds. But, no, that way madness lies, and we are positive that the American legal imagination will come up with a rationale under which an evangelical’s declining to do business with a homosexual is illegal but the reverse is perfectly legal, if not mandatory.

Again, it is in this case a matter of culture. The nation’s full-time gay-rights professionals simply will not rest until a homogeneous and stultifying monoculture is settled upon the land, and if that means deploying a ridiculous lynch mob to pronounce anathema upon a California technology executive for private views acted on in his private life, then so be it. The gay agenda of the moment is, ironically enough, to force nonconformists into the metaphorical closet. If through the miracle of modern medicine you end up with five sets of mixed genitals, you’ll get your own section in the California civil-rights statutes; cling to nearly universal views about marriage for a few months after it’s become unfashionable, and you’re an untouchable.

Unless, that is, you’re the anti-gay-marriage candidate that all the pro-gay-marriage people voted for in 2008, in which case you get a pass, apparently on the theory that everybody assumed you were being willfully dishonest for political reasons. (That assumption provides a relatively rare point of agreement between homosexual activists and the editors of this magazine.) There simply is to be no disagreement, no dissent, and no tolerance for other points of view.

Vindictive fanaticism is not the mark of a healthy civil society — but it is not entirely a question of that. Civil-rights laws are being deployed to coerce members of religious minorities into falling in line with the demands of those who hold political power. Arrangements that allow anonymous donations to political groups are under constant attack, so that nonconforming donors can be subjected to the treatment handed down to Mr. Eich. In other countries, there are speech codes policing what may be said and written about the subject, and there are those among us who wish to emulate them.

Mr. Eich has been denounced as a bigot. It is worth noting, for those who make this charge, that so far as the public record is concerned, he has never registered an opinion on the morality of homosexuality per se, and his firm is as welcoming of gay employees as any in its industry. All he did was write a $1,000 check to an organization dedicated to the previously unremarkable proposition that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, a position that was endorsed by the voters of California and is held today by many people of good will, including some who are gay themselves. Even the gay nonconformists are being hunted down, as Brandon Ambrosino of Vox discovered when critics demanded that he be dismissed for holding unapproved views regarding same-sex marriage.

The spectacle should be an embarrassing one, especially for those gay Americans who take a more liberal view of political disagreement than their self-appointed leadership does. It is one of history’s little ironies that some of our current batch of prim-faced, puritanical, intolerant, and miserable thought police call themselves, of all things, “gay,” something they manifestly are not. The treatment handed out to Mr. Eich by them and their non-gay supporters is contemptible. It is also, unhappily, likely to be a precedent.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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