Alexandra Friedman | Thank you, Mozilla

Friedom of Speech | The backlash faced by anti-gay business executives demonstrates how far we’ve come in changing the tide of history

· April 7, 2014, 6:18 pm   ·  Updated April 7, 2014, 8:57 pm

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W hen OkCupid user s visited the site using Mozilla last week, they were greeted with a message: “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,” adding that “if individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8 percent of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal.”

In 2012, Chick-fil-A, a company founded upon “biblically-based principles,” came under fire after its Chief Operating Officer, Dan Cathy, issued a statement that the company was “very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.” In response, mayors of cities like Boston and Chicago issued warnings to Chick-fil-A, advising that they not attempt to build restaurants in their cities.

On the flip side, there are companies like Honey Maid , whose new “This Is Wholesome” campaign has also garnered a lot of attention. The ad, which portrays a variety of family situations, including an image of two fathers and their newborn baby, led many to send vicious messages to the company for attempting to “normalize sin.” Instead of offering a conciliatory message to dissatisfied Honey Maid customers, however, the company simply created another ad — this one expressing their unequivocal support for LGBTQ rights in a voice even louder than the first.

There comes a moment in time and history for every successful movement of social change when its goal becomes so widely accepted that no matter whether you’re behind it or against it, you’re assisting its cause when you openly take a stance on the issue. Our political institutions frequently do not reflect the majority opinion; they are often the last to see the waves of history come crashing down on them. That applied to both the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement. It will be the same for LGBTQ rights.

Eich, unable to quell the flames surrounding his anti-gay stance, was forced to resign. Ensconced in national controversy, Chick-fil-A issued a statement saying that it “treat[s] every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender” and would “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

To be clear, Eich and Cathy have every right to voice their opinions. When those opinions run contrary to the values of the majority of Americans, however, there are consequences. It is not merely unwise for a company or its CEO to openly harbor anti-gay sentiment; it is suicidal. With a majority of Americans in favor of gay rights, these days it seems that to be anti-gay is to be un-American.

The reality is that LGBTQ equality, thankfully, is inevitable. While complete equality may not occur tomorrow, there has been a dramatic shift in American public opinion toward LGBTQ rights. In 2003, only 32 percent of Americans supported the right to same-sex marriage, and 59 percent were opposed. This year, with 17 different states approving same-sex marriage unions, 53 percent of Americans now favor marriage equality and 41 percent oppose it.

I would like to take a moment to thank Brendan Eich. And you too, Dan Cathy. Without your very public anti-gay statements and fiscal support for anti-gay organizations, the progress that has been made in American society would not have been as obvious as it is now. We may not have arrived at our destination just yet, but it is clear that we are certainly on our way there.

In a country where outspoken homophobia has become unacceptable, those who give it harbor are only assisting the progress toward LGBTQ equality. The tide of history has turned on this subject, just as it did with civil rights and women’s rights, and just as it will for the next movement of social change. As CEOs of major corporations continue to come out of the closet with their anti-gay perspectives, we as a society are provided with a clear line, distinguishing moral from immoral, right from wrong and loving from hateful.

Alexandra Friedman is a College junior studying history from Atlanta, Ga. Email her at alfrie@sas.upenn.edu or follow her @callme_alfrie.

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