48117907A reader who heads his own tech firm writes:

What you may not know, as someone not in the tech industry, is that Eich is not just some suit who has done some engineering. He is credited as literally the inventor of the JavaScript programming language. This is the scripting language that more or less operates the browser and allows a web page to interact with the user as opposed to be a static display. You might think that would be pretty relevant for the CEO of a freaking browser company. But apparently not as important as the fact that the guy had the same opinion on SSM as Barack Obama in 2008.

That’s what makes this thing so chilling. JavaScript is the world’s most widely used programming language. He invented it! And he also works for a company, Mozilla, that has a policy of keeping out of the office anything (like, say, campaign donations) that doesn’t directly affect the company’s mission — a policy that he had pledged to abide by as CEO. And still, they wouldn’t tolerate him.

If they can knock off a guy like Eich, one of the co-founders of the company and one of the most important figures in the tech industry, because of his belief in traditional marriage, who is safe? I’ve not read anything about Eich’s religious beliefs, but he does have five children, and graduated from Santa Clara University, which is Catholic. Whatever his faith, if he has faith, this is a clear shot that no orthodox Catholic, Evangelical, or Orthodox Christian, or Orthodox Jew, or faithful Muslim, is welcome at Mozilla — nor, it is safe to assume, in Silicon Valley at all. This, even though one’s view on marriage has nothing to do with the success or failure of the work of Silicon Valley. They would rather throw one of the founding fathers of the Internet down a well than tolerate him, because of his expressed belief on traditional marriage.

Think about that.

If this was the Democratic Party, or a gay-rights religious group,  an AIDS charity, or an organization like that, you could certainly see why this would, or could, matter to the mission. But a tech firm, especially given that as CEO, he had pledged to abide by and to continue the firm’s gay-friendly policies?

Chilling.

A friend who lives in the Bay Area tells me that he expects gay activist groups to go after insufficiently pro-gay churches indirectly: by targeting prominent businessmen and executives who attend those churches, and threatening pressure on their businesses if they don’t stop going to or donating to those churches.

Maybe. If they can take down a giant in his field like Brendan Eich over this, why should they stop? Error has no rights. They will tell you that there’s a difference between holding an opinion and donating money to a political campaign (otherwise known as “expressing it”). They will tell you that he’s a CEO, and we shouldn’t feel sorry for CEOs; anyway, you’re not a CEO, so don’t worry. Don’t you believe it. It is not enough to agree to live by a company’s gay-friendly policies. If you work there and are known not to support same-sex marriage, you will likely be subject to targeting in the workplace by people who claim your presence makes them feel “unsafe,” or “triggers” their fear. You may be committed to treating all your co-workers, gay and straight, justly and respectfully; it will not matter. If you think it can’t happen to you, ask yourself: if it can happen to someone like Brendan Eich, why couldn’t it happen to me?

I would support a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, protecting gay and lesbian employees from being fired over their sexual orientation. I say “a version,” because I would want strong, clear carve-outs for companies and organizations for whom the sexuality of the employee is directly related to the organization’s ability to carry out its mission. (Similarly, I would want a group like the Metropolitan Community Church or the Human Rights Campaign to be able to dismiss an employee whose stated views against same-sex marriage directly affected their missions. The point is, I believe it’s wrong to fire an employee simply because he or she is gay or lesbian, and as long as a few conditions are met, should be illegal. We could have a federal labor law protecting the right of employees to off-the-job political speech, but that wouldn’t protect any employee from the force of boycotts and witch-hunting. Remember, the Hollywood blacklist was not imposed by the government, but by studio heads. This is about culture.

The Law Of Merited Impossibility — “It’s not going to happen, and when it does, you people will deserve it” — is manifest in the Brendan Eich case to an extent we’ve not yet seen. As far as I can tell, the only real hope orthodox Christians and other opponents of SSM have lies in the willingness of prominent liberal (in the philosophical sense) gays like Andrew Sullivan to stand up for the principle of free speech and tolerance against the McCarthyites. Because when it comes to gay rights in 2014 America, this seems to be true.

UPDATE: William Saletan says you can find out the names of everyone who gave to the Prop 8 campaign, and (sarcastically) urges anti-Eich campaigners to go after them too. He doesn’t mean it, of course; he’s making a point about witch-hunting. If you are one of those corporate executives who gave to Prop 8, I bet you don’t think this is funny today.