Mozilla CEO quits after anti-gay contribution controversy

Firefox logoAlthough I’m not big on boycotts, I do choose which companies I do business with. So I began posting an earlier version of this story on my newly downloaded version of Safari. When I heard Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, however, I switched right back to Firefox.

Mozilla is the not-for-profit company that created the browser Firefox.

Soon after Eich was promoted on March 24, his $1,000 donation to support Proposition 8 that ended same-sex marriage in California for four years went public. Companies like OkCupid called on users to switch browsers.

In a series of interviews this week, Eich repeatedly refused to comment about the donation. In explaining his position and why he would remain at the head of the company that clearly includes LGBT equality as part of its corporate culture, he used twisted logic that a community like Mozilla should also support what many consider intolerant beliefs. Put another way, if you’re tolerant, you should tolerate my bigotry.

On Monday, Mitchell Baker, the chairwoman of Mozilla, wrote on her blog:

“Speaking as the Chairwoman, I want to speak clearly on behalf of both the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation: Mozilla supports equality for all, explicitly including LGBT equality and marriage equality.”

This afternoon, Baker updated the Mozilla blog.

“Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO” she said. “He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.”

Eich is one of the creators of Firefox. When his donation first came to light in 2012, his coworkers at Mozilla were surprised. He had never shown any indication of personally opposing equality or working against any LGBT employee’s equality at the company.

“My experience is that Brendan is as committed to opportunity and diversity inside Mozilla as anyone, and more so than many,” Baker said.

Once Eich was named CEO, websites like OKCupid encouraged its users to try another browser.

“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 company wrote in a letter to its users.

OkCupid explained that 8 percent of the relationships the site help form would be invalid if Eich had his way.

Now that Eich is gone, Baker wrote, “We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved. Thank you for sticking with us.”

OK. I tried using Safari. I didn’t really like it. Although I didn’t really want to use it, I felt like I couldn’t write the original story I had about Mozilla’s CEO on Firefox. Eich’s gone and I’m happy to say, I’m back.

—  David Taffet

Louisville couple gets 1-cent fine for marriage equality trespass protest

Blanchard

The Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard

When Mark and Beau Jiminez applied for their marriage license in Dallas and were denied, they were arrested and charged with trespassing when they wouldn’t leave the building.

When Dominique James and the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard applied for their marriage license in Louisville, Ky., they were arrested and charged with trespassing when they wouldn’t leave the building.

The Jiminezes each agreed to a plea deal and served 40 hours of community service.

James and Blanchard were offered a plea deal of five hours of community service. They rejected it, and the case went to trial. They were found guilty Wednesday and fined 1 cent. The couple called the jury’s verdict a vindication of their act of civil disobedience.

The Jiminezes spent their community service time working for marriage equality. Mark Jiminez is now a candidate for county clerk.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: 6 Texas activists arrested at ENDA protest in Boehner’s office

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 12.25.42 PM

Three members of GetEQUAL in Speaker John Boehner’s office.

Eight members of GetEQUAL were arrested outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner this morning, including six from Texas.

The group wants Boehner to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the House floor for a vote. The other two arrested were from Ohio, which also has no statewide LGBT employment protections.

According to Texas GetEQUAL organizer Michael Diviesti, those arrested were Tiffani Bishop, Austin; Koby Ozias, Corpus Christi; Carey Dunn, Austin; Erin Jennings, San Antonio; and Kaya Candia-Almanza and Cindy Candia. He said about 20 GetEQUAL members were in the room.

After speaking to staff members in Boehner’s office, they protested inside the office. When asked to leave, the continued their protest outside the office, where they were arrested.

Bishop was the first arrested.

The group called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their equal employee opportunity statements.

“It’s clear that Speaker Boehner has absolutely zero intention of supporting or moving forward the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sean Watkins, a gay Iraq War veteran and constituent of Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement issued by GetEQUAL.

Watch video of the eight in Boehner’s office below.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Dems gather in Austin to talk pro-equality strategy in Texas

Former Congressman Barney Frank addresses the crowd during the Equality Forward Summit in Austin on April 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Texas Stonewall Democrats met in Austin this weekend for the first Equality Forward Summit to discuss how to gain support for pro-equality measures and ultimately turn Texas blue.

The event was the first collaborative effort between the Texas Democratic Party and the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus and drew about 150 people for the weekend’s workshops.

About 250 people, many standing, packed a room at the Hilton Austin Airport hotel after a day of workshops on Saturday to hear former Congressman Barney Frank speak about his time in office and the change he expects in the future.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker introduced Frank, during which she said she still considers herself an activist and has since learned of a gay agenda.

“I don’t know of any gay agenda, but I have been doing this long enough that we do have a gay agenda,” Parker said. “Our gay agenda is the ability to have jobs that we love, to support the families that we care about and to pay taxes.”

She said No. 2 on the gay agenda was serving openly in the military, which has been accomplished, No. 3 is feeling safe in schools and being free from bullying, and No. 4 is the freedom to marry.

Parker said all of the items on the list will gain support from Texas votes but it is Stonewall and the state party’s job to get that message out.

“But just as we as Democrats have a message that will resonate in Texas, the GLBT community has that same agenda that will resonate across Texas,” she said. “And when we openly advocate for that agenda, I’m standing here as proof that being who we are, being open and honest, we can win at the ballot box.”

—  Anna Waugh

Marriages in Maine to begin at midnight

Marriage begins in state No. 8 tomorrow. Several city and town halls in Maine are planning special hours to accommodate people planning to marry as soon as the marriage-equality law fully takes effect.

Two other states that voted for equality in November are Washington and Maryland. Marriages began in Washington earlier this month and will begin in Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The Portland Press reported that Portland’s city hall will open at 12:01 a.m. and stay open until 3 a.m. to issue licenses and perform ceremonies. Officials said they can accommodate up to 100 couples. Doors open at 10 p.m. tonight.

In Maryland, one company is pulling a Baylor Health Care System and will no longer offer its services for weddings of any type. Discover Annapolis Tours said it would lose $50,000 a year when it stops its business rather than serve same-sex couples.

“If they’re providing services to the public, they can’t discriminate who they provide their services to,” said Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Gay Weddings In Maine is a new website to help couples getting married in Maine. The site includes legal advice, practical information and more than 300 vendors happy to provide everything from flowers, limousines and catering halls to rehearsal dinner and honeymoon spots around the state.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Murs’ pro-gay “Animal Style”

Internet buzz is ramping up for L.A. rapper Murs’ newest video. Well, it’s a week old officially, but the gay blogs are just catching wind of the pro-gay stance of “Animal Style” taken by the indie hip-hop artist. Much like Texas rapper Adair Lion, Murs, who is straight, pushes queer issues into the hip-hop arena. Huffy Po’s Gay Voices blog analyzes the video while Out talks to Murs about his gay kiss and what his wife thinks about it.

Murs has a healthy stance on the issue and his chat with Out reveals some insight to why he’s gay friendly. The video and song play a bit roughly with both graphic imagery and language, but also in structure. While I appreciate what he’s doing, dang it’s hard to vibe with his flow. But with Lion, Frank Ocean Y-Love and A-list musicians either supporting LGBT rights or coming out, queer identity and big and small ways looks to be changing the face of hip-hop.

Watch “Animal Style” after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Couple released after marriage sit-in arrest

LGBT protesters gather outside the Lew Sterrett Justice Center on Thursday evening.

Beau Chandler, left, and Mark "Major" Jiminez apply for a marriage license at the clerk's office.

After about four hours in custody, Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler were released from jail after being charged with criminal trespass, a class-B misdemeanor. The couple refused to leave the County Clerk’s office on Thursday when they applied for and were denied their marriage license.

“The arresting officers were very quiet in the police cars,” Jiminez said. “But we told them we weren’t trying to be assholes.”

When they got to the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, they were processed and put in holding, where there are three TVs. A story about their arrests had just appeared on Channel 8 when they got there.

The others being held turned to them and said, “Hey! I know you!”

“We had a discussion with a community I never thought I would have this discussion with,” Jiminez said. They talked to the others in the holding cell about marriage equality.

Someone Jiminez described as a “friendly cop” escorted them to the 7th floor.

“Just please don’t kiss or hold hands,” the detention officer told them. As they were being escorted,  other officers asked if they could help. But the “friendly” officer told them, “No, I got this.”

Bail was set at $500 each. The couple withdrew the money from the ATM outside the courtroom inside the jail.

As they left Lew Sterrett, they were figuring out how to get back to their cars, which were parked near the Records Building a few blocks away.

On the corner they saw some protesters.

“We thought Westboro Baptist had come down to protest us,” Jiminez said.

But he said they saw members of the DFW Sisters and other friends and supporters.

“They told us they were prepared to stand there all night until we got out,” he said.

When they got home, they had 400 emails. Jiminez said that by the time he answered 150 of them, there were 200 more.

The couple has a court date at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 2. They both have the same date and time, but will appear in different courtrooms.

A class-B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a maximum $2,000 fine.

Jiminez said they are looking for an attorney and plan to plead not guilty. If convicted, they plan to appeal.

“We took this step and we’re not gonna let it stop,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Funeral for Bettie Naylor set for May 5

Naylor.Bettie

Bettie Naylor

Family and friends of beloved Texas activist Bettie Naylor will celebrate her life spent advocating for LGBT and women’s rights May 5.

The service will be at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca Street in Austin.

A celebration will then follow at the Family Life Center located one block from the Church, according to information released on behalf of Naylor’s partner Libby Sykora by Equality Texas. Memorial donations may be made to Family Eldercare, 1700 Rutherford Lane in Austin, in honor of the The Bettie Naylor Fund established to provide care for LGBT seniors.

Sykora found Naylor, 84, April 19. She had died in her sleep.

A founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List, Equality Texas Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith told Dallas Voice that she was the  “creator of the equal rights movement in Texas.”

—  Anna Waugh

SPIRITUALITY: Restoring some Dignity to Dallas

Mirroring a national trend, local LGBT Catholic group finds itself in a rebuilding stage

Jim Davis

Jim Davis

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Dignity Dallas, the LGBT Catholic organization, is in a re-forming stage, according to leader Jim Davis.

Davis said he’s been out “beating the bushes to let people know who we are.”

Dignity is not formally recognized by the Catholic Church.

Jon Garinn, Dignity Dallas’ former spiritual leader, said the group once attracted 25 to 35 people to weekly Sunday mass.

But Davis said the group, on the verge of folding, now meets just once a month as it tries to rebuild. One problem, Davis said, has been finding local leaders willing to identify themselves openly and actively promote the group.

“The bishop already doesn’t like us,” Davis said. “What do we care what he says? I want my name out there.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said the role of the organization has changed, and the Dallas chapter’s situation isn’t uncommon. She said at one time, Dignity was the first connection a gay Catholic made to the LGBT community.

The organization was often a place of sanctuary — a safe place for LGBT Catholics who were verbally attacked in their parishes. That’s not true anymore.

“The LGBT community has blossomed,” she said. “As Dignity re-forms across the country, it’s taking many shapes and forms.”

But she said that Dignity is still a place for LGBT Catholics to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope that have hurt so many.

“We’re the group who will affirm who you are,” she said. “We’ll marry the couples. We’ll baptize their kids. Dignity is there to support the majority of Catholics who support LGBT rights.”

Duddy-Burke said a study last year indicated that Catholics are less likely to hear anti-LGBT messages from the pulpit than mainstream Protestants or Evangelicals.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released this week showed that more than two-thirds of Catholics believe same-sex couples deserve some sort of relationship recognition, while 44 percent support marriage equality.

But the message from the upper hierarchy is still negative and even getting worse.

“Dignity is the anti-hierarchy,” she said.

The national organization helps local chapters with quarterly leadership calls, a chapter-relations support team, leadership training programs and general exchanges of ideas.

Duddy-Burke said some chapters continue to offer weekly mass while others perform their own service monthly. Some attend a parish together and then go out to brunch as a group. Others maintain activities such as a book-discussion group or supper club.

Davis said the Dallas Dignity group has maintained its monthly supper club at Revlon House, one of the housing units of AIDS Services Dallas.

Duddy-Burke called that “more Catholic than the liturgy” in living the values that the church teaches.

Davis said that many Dignity members attend mass at Holy Trinity Church on Oak Lawn Avenue, where a large portion of the congregation is gay and lesbian. To explain what Dignity means to him, Davis coined the chapter’s motto — “The traditions you love. The acceptance you deserve.”

“I started attending Dignity when I began hearing edicts from Rome,” he said. “My church [parish] wasn’t welcoming either. At the time, I was ready to walk away from the [Catholic] Church.”

He agreed with Duddy-Burke that Dignity speaks for the values of the majority of Catholics who believe in equality for the LGBT community.

“We think it’s important as gay Catholics to hold a mirror up to the Catholic Church and say, ‘There’s no conflict there,’” he said.

Because the local bishop doesn’t support Dignity, Davis said the group has had trouble finding clergy to lead mass. Currently, a monk who lives in the area but is still affiliated with an order in another state and a priest from the Polish National Catholic Church with a parish in Oak Cliff act as its spiritual leaders.

“If the chapter is going to have any effect,” he said, “we have to be in your face.”

Davis wants new members who will let the group’s leaders know what the new Dallas Dignity should do.

Duddy-Burke said that the increasingly hostile rhetoric from the church hierarchy isn’t playing in the pews. DignityUSA is receiving stronger and stronger support from Catholics across the country.

“I’m giving 25 bucks to Dignity,” she said people write her after hearing anti-gay messages from the church, “because I’m not giving it to my parish.”

Dignity Dallas meets the first Sunday of the month at Cathedral of Hope at 5 p.m. For more info, visit DignityDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

So what if being gay IS a choice?

Despite some activists’ outrage over actress Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments, it doesn’t really matter how we became LGBT

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

After four decades of watching people struggle to keep up with the politically correct standard of the day in discussing LGBT life, I’m beginning to think it’s time for everyone to relax a little.

I reached that decision this week when I read about activists getting in an uproar over Cynthia Nixon, an actress who starred in Sex and the City, telling the New York Times Magazine she preferred being gay to straight because she had lived both types of lives. Her remarks created a furor among those who demand we frame all of our speech in a way they think best advances the LGBT rights movement. A few days later Nixon softened her stance in a Daily Beast interview by saying she was a bisexual by no choice of her own, presumably in an effort to quell the controversy.

Frankly, Nixon’s first remarks in the New York Times Magazine article made sense to me, and so did her later remarks about believing she never made a conscious decision to be a bisexual. It’s just that I regretted she felt compelled to revise what she had said earlier to appease her critics. I got what she meant the first time without her follow-up explanation, and I imagine most other enlightened people did as well.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who gave birth to two children with a male partner, probably did make a choice to live a gay life when she became sexually involved with a woman. If someone is attracted to both the opposite and the same sex, there probably does come a point when the individual might need to make a choice in terms of permanent or semi-permanent partnership.
Certainly Nixon ought to be the best judge of what happened in her own life, so what’s wrong with her telling the truth as she sees it?

Nixon noted correctly that many LGBT activists shudder every time they hear the word “choice,” “preference” or “lifestyle” because they fear it supports conservative religious arguments that homosexuality is a perversion practiced by degenerates who get their kicks out of being wicked. As the theory goes, that gives credence to the evangelists’ claims that bisexuality, homosexuality and gender variance can be cured by the administration of a good dose of Bible verse in quantities sufficient enough to scare the holy bejesus out of the sinner.

As we all know, that doesn’t work. Actually, even most straight people realize that won’t work because most of them have also suffered the wrath of the evangelical community in condemnation of some aspect of their lives, such as the urge to masturbate or engage in sexual activity before marriage. In reality, the only ones who truly believe a pack of Bible thumpers can transform a person’s sexual orientation are people who are lying about it, have been brainwashed into believing it or are just too ignorant to understand scientific research.

Decades of scientific evidence make it clear that every aspect of a person’s physical and mental makeup — which certainly includes sexual orientation — comes about as a result of heritable genes and the impact of sex hormones on the brain and other body parts of the developing fetus.

In his 2011 book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, neuroscientist Simon LeVay outlines decades of scientific studies that all point to the same conclusion: In essence, people are what nature made them.

LeVay, who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has pointed this out in various articles and books he has authored over the years. The results of a scientific study LeVay published in Science in 1991 showing marked differences in the brain structures of gay and straight men is credited with helping spur the two-decade wave of scientific research aimed at determining a biological basis for sexual orientation.

What the body of scientific evidence does for most reasonable people is confirm what common sense had already told them. There’s just no way certain people with obvious mental and physical characteristics could have been anything other than what they became — namely gay, lesbian or transgender.

With others in the LGBT community it’s a little trickier because they display either few or none of the obvious characteristics identifying them as anything other than straight. Environment might have played some role in their development, but again the scientific evidence points to biological factors. What’s more the individuals usually report experiencing feelings since their earliest recollections that set them apart from heterosexual people.

Still, the unpredictability of humans makes it impossible to categorize all people. Some members of the community undoubtedly did feel an attraction to the LGBT lifestyle and chose to embrace it for that reason. The very size and the diversity of the world’s LGBT community is so staggering that if we come across some people who are merely practicing free will, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

That’s why I liked Nixon’s earlier remarks that it didn’t matter how people came to be a part of the LGBT community. As she said, it doesn’t matter how each and every person got here, and words will never sway the opinions of bigots and opportunists. It will require life experiences — such as coming to realize they have a child or grandchild who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — to hopefully educate them about the realities of life.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades for the mainstream and alternative media. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens