Thursday, April 10, 2014

The perils of having an opinion: No one may disagree with today's orthodoxy -- even yesterday

I use Firefox as a browser but, frankly, I'd never heard of Brendan Eich, until recently the CEO of Mozilla, the company that created Firefox.

And I was actually doing some legal work last week (it comes in fits and starts) so I hadn't really been closely following the news. But I noticed a lot of churning and angst in my Facebook news feed, from generally serious persons, many of them lawyers, about boycotting Mozilla and Firefox because of an opinion expressed by Brendan Eich.

Then Mr. Eich fell on his sword, or pulled the rip-chord on his golden parachute, resigning as Mozilla CEO, and peace and harmony were restored in my Facebook newsfeed soon thereafter. I guess I can use Firefox again, wrote one lawyer.

I wondered what unspeakable opinion had led to Mr. Eich's downfall. Had he expressed a fondness for Adolf Hitler? Had he come out foursquare in favor of legalizing child pornography? Well, he was a CEO -- maybe, I thought, he wanted to eliminate all taxes on successful people, something to give those of us rooting about in the gutters some 'incentive' to succeed. Maybe he was promoting cannibalism as a solution to world hunger.

I figured it had to be something truly awful for him to lose his job and stir up such a hornets' nest that it even reached my isolated corner of the social media world.

It turns out, however, that Mr. Eich's fatal offense was contributing $1,000 in 2008 to support California's Proposition 8 -- which would have banned gay marriage.

This was a ballot initiative that was so outrageous, so extreme, so radical that, of course, it actually succeeded at the polls.

Wait. What?

Yes, a majority of California voters agreed with Mr. Eich -- in 2008 -- that gay marriage wasn't marriage. The courts invalidated the election results, as you know, and now the social media has pushed Mr. Eich out of his job, with a company that he helped to found, because of a perfectly acceptable position that he then held.

There is, according to some polls today, a majority coalescing around the idea that gay marriage is marriage after all. Since 2008 gay marriage has been legalized in several states, including my own state of Illinois.

But in 2008, that was definitely not the case, in California or elsewhere around the United States. Mr. Eich and Barack Obama were on the exact same side of the issue -- in 2008. I was on their side then, too.

I still don't think that marriage should be redefined as many courts and the legislatures of several states are redefining it. I also recognize that I am losing the argument.

I see the problem as linguistic. I don't have a problem with the law recognizing a union between same-sex couples that is accorded the exact same dignities and privileges as what we used to call marriage. I continue to believe, as I have for a decade or so (as far as I can recall it was around 10 years ago that I first had occasion to think about the issue), that the state would be better off getting out of the "marriage" business entirely, leaving the question of what is, or is not, a marriage to the churches, but requiring the separate civil registration of all unions between consenting adults, whether recognized by churches as marriages or not. The civil registration would be determinative for all tax, inheritance, pension and other benefits questions.

I don't mean to trivialize what some have characterized as the great civil rights issue of our time, but I see the issue as this: Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage are getting a divorce and are having a very public custody battle over the right to the use of the name Marriage.

I have no problem with gay couples living together and raising families and being accorded full legal rights as domestic partners, just as I and my Long Suffering Spouse have been domestic partners now for almost 32 years. I'm not threatened, I'm not worried, I'm not scared. I wish all couples, gay and straight, joy and happiness and long lives together. I do not, however, see why my objection to calling the arrangement between gay partners a "marriage" makes me a hater.

Which means, of course, that I can never be the CEO of Mozilla. It also means that no one is ever safe expressing an opinion, even a popular one, lest it become unpopular with the passage of time. Isn't that sad?


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

that's insane curmy. and for the record i think chrome is a much better browser, perhaps you should boycott firefox NOW. yikes. i don't agree with his opinion necessarily but i certainly think everyone had a right to HAVE one. geesh.

smiles, bee

Ruan Peat said...

Thank you, so many folk are too scared to say what you have, and I must agree with you, either marriage is in church and state defines unions differently, or the term marriage becomes disassociated from the church. We should have a civil right to love and be with who ever regardless if gender, the teaching of the church should not run over that but nor should that run over the church. :-( hard to make a point when folk only want to heard full agreement, or your a hater/ bigot/ narrow minded. So yes as I started, Thank you.