The online dating site OkCupid led the charge to create a firestorm of controversy over Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s $1,000 donation to the campaign for Proposition 8 in 2008. The site went as far as to change its homepage for Mozilla Firefox users to suggest to users that Eich is anti-gay.
When Eich stepped down within a few days of the boycott, the company cheered.
“We are pleased that OkCupid’s boycott has brought tremendous awareness to the critical matter of equal rights for all individuals and partnerships,” OkCupid wrote in a statement.
Then on Monday it emerged that OkCupid’s co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan made a donation to a congressional candidate who opposed same-sex marriage, voted against a ban on sexual-orientation based job discrimination and for prohibition of gay adoptions, according to Uncrunched.
Records show Yagan, who is also the CEO of Match.com, donated $500 to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) in 2004. The congressman also reportedly earned a 0 percent rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL Pro Choice America.
Critics say the similar donation shows a level of hypocrisy in the company’s actions.
Few would deny that if anyone can be fired because they made a donation to a person or cause that a percentage of the population disagrees with, the implications for free speech are absolutely chilling.
Of course, it’s been a decade since Yagan’s donation to Cannon, and a decade or more since many of Cannon’s votes on gay rights. It’s possible that Cannon’s opinions have shifted, or maybe his votes were more politics than ideology; a tactic by the Mormon Rep. to satisfy his Utah constituency. It’s also quite possible that Yagan’s politics have changed since 2004: He donated to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2007 and 2008. Perhaps even Firefox’s Eich has rethought LGBT equality since his 2008 donation. But OkCupid didn’t include any such nuance in its take-down of Firefox. Combine that with the fact that the company helped force out one tech CEO for something its own CEO also did, and its action last week starts to look more like a PR stunt than an impassioned act of protest.
Many people, even those who disagree with Eich’s donation, have spoken out against the act of silencing people just because they have a different opinion.
Even openly gay far-left blogger Andrew Sullivan panned the effort, finding rare common ground with conservative personalities who think free speech is more important than political beliefs.
“The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out,” Sullivan wrote. “If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”