What if Brendan Eich had given $1000 to support Proposition 8a, which might have stated, “In California, a marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman…of the same race.” In Mozilla’s Gay-Marriage Litmus Test Violates Liberal Values, Conor Friedersdorf argues against the notion that, “a CEO should be judged not just by his or her conduct in the professional realm, but also by political causes he or she supports as a private citizen.” Would he argue the same if Brendan Eich had given money to keep interracial couples from marrying?
In 1967, the Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. In 1958, Mildred Delores Jeter, of African-American descent, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in Washington, D.C. Living in Virginia, their house was raided by police, who arrested them for ‘cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.’
If Brendan Eich had donated to a cause trying to ban interracial marriage, Conor Friedersdorf and others would likely not support his right to be CEO of Mozilla on the basis of the right to free speech as a citizen separate from his duties as CEO. Why, then, can he argue differently when the case is about marriage equality for people of the same gender? “Consider an issue like abortion,” Friedersdorf argues. Many in the country are pro-choice; many are pro-life. The argument has not been settled. “Would American society be better off if stakeholders in various corporations began to investigate leadership’s political activities on abortion?”
In the context of an evolving society, let us consider the ninth amendment to the Constitution, and the notion of natural law. The ninth amendment states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In other words, we have rights which are not listed in the Constitution. Natural law maintains that there are certain universal laws in nature beyond and behind the laws that we promulgate in society. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We maintain these rights even if the majority votes to deny these rights and prevents us from exercising them.
In Loving v. Virginia, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” The court found that people have a right to marry who they want, even if they are of different races. A right not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, alluded to in the fourteenth amendment which Warren used as the basis of his decision, and one, he maintains, in accordance with natural law.
Same-sex marriage is not a settled issue in American politics and society. It is an open issue about which we should be able to argue and not be vilified for our position. 50 years ago, interracial marriage was in a similar position. Today, one cannot take a stance publicly against the rights of individuals of different races to marry, and expect to get away with it. Society changed, and our mores and beliefs with it. And society will continue to change, and with it our views on marriage equality. In some corners of America, they already have.
In most corners of America, publicly donating to a movement to ban interracial marriage would disqualify one from being CEO of a major corporation. And in one corner of America, youngish, libertarianish, liberalish San Francisco Bay Area Silicon Valley high tech, publicly donating to a proposition banning gay marriage also disqualifies one from being CEO of Mozilla.