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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why OkCupid's CEO Donation to an Anti-Gay Candidate Is Different than Mozilla's

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 8:46 AM

click to enlarge gayborhoodbeat.jpg

Last week we told you about the uproar over Mozilla's newly appointed CEO Brendan Eich, who donated $1,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign that banned gay marriage. A few days later, Eich stepped down as CEO, thanks in part to the dating website OkCupid, which called for a boycott on Firefox, saying: "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."

After Eich stepped down, OkCupid tweeted: "We are pleased that OkCupid's boycott has brought tremendous awareness to the critical matter of equal rights for all individuals and partnerships."

Was it equal rights awareness though, or a PR stunt? Some bloggers are questioning OkCupid's motives after it was revealed that OkCupid's CEO Sam Yagan (who also runs also donated money to an anti-gay candidate several years ago.

Yagan gave Congressman Chris Cannon $500 in 2004. Cannon, a Republican in Utah, has a less-than-glowing track record when it comes to gay rights, and women, and well, most minorities it seems (though he did issue a commemorative postage stamp of Rosa Parks, so, yes). He voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He voted to constitutionally define marriage as "one-man-one-woman." He voted to ban gay adoptions in D.C. And he has a 0 percent rating by the Human Rights Campaign for his anti-gay stances.

"Is it absurd to judge Yagan as a person based on a single donation, years ago, to a politician well known for waging war on gays?" asks Michael Arrington on Uncrunched (a TechCrunch blog). "Yup. But that is precisely what Yagan and OkCupid did to Eich."

For this reason, Arrington and others are now asking people to break up with OkCupid until Yagan steps down, since one hypocritical boycott begets another. While we sort of see that argument, Yagan supporting a Republican in his district 10 years ago is very different from Eich supporting a bill that directly stripped civil rights away from gay people in California. 

Besides, lesbihonest, a lot of people didn't support gay marriage in 2004. Barack Obama didn't, (and Yagan later donated money to his campaigns in 2007 and 2008.) Hillary Clinton didn't. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a person who has never voted for somebody who was against gay marriage at one point in their political careers. So anyone who voted for Obama should probably put their pitchforks down. Also, OkCupid didn't call for Eich's head; it asked users to consider a different browser other than Firefox. Slightly different.

In The Huffington Post, Yagan apologized for his donation to Cannon, claiming he was not aware of Cannon's gay rights stance:

"A decade ago, I made a contribution to Representative Chris Cannon because he was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversaw the Internet and Intellectual Property, matters important to my business and our industry. I accept responsibility for not knowing where he stood on gay rights in particular; I unequivocally support marriage equality and I would not make that contribution again today. However, a contribution made to a candidate with views on hundreds of issues has no equivalence to a contribution supporting Prop 8, a single issue that has no purpose other than to affirmatively prohibit gay marriage, which I believe is a basic civil right."

That business leaders are sometimes hypocritical is hardly the point. And while, yes, OkCupid was probably acting out of self-interest and not simple warm and fuzzy altruism, it did bring up an important discussion about the ethical responsibilities of companies that incubate relationships or run one of the biggest open-source software projects in the world. And calling for an OkCupid boycott doesn't add to that discussion.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley


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