Can a chief executive run an open-source software company while simultaneously holding views some say are antithetical to the ethos of the open-source community?
The chief executive of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, who made a $1,000 contribution in 2008 to support a ban on gay marriage, believes they can. But a number of his employees and people outside the company disagree.
On Tuesday Mr. Eich tried to quell outrage about his views opposing gay marriage, saying that he is capable of separating his personal beliefs from those of the business he is running.
In a phone interview Mr. Eich said Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, asks employees to leave their personal views — whether religious or the right of same sex-couples to marry — at the door of the company and, while at work, to focus on expanding the mission of the Firefox browser.
“I do separate our beliefs from our mission,” Mr. Eich said. “I have always lived by the principle of inclusiveness; if you can’t leave your other stuff at the door you’re going to break into other groups. We have to be one group.” He added: “In some places people see a unity of the personal and political. Mozilla can’t do that or we’ll fail.”
But some employees seemed to disagree, noting over the last couple of weeks on Twitter that Mr. Eich should step down and that his views were counter to the goals of the open-source software company.
Internally Mr. Eich has been holding companywide meetings to discuss the issue, defending his views as personal and repeatedly telling employees that Mozilla practices “inclusiveness,” which is often used to note that people within an organization have diverse backgrounds.
On Tuesday Viking Karwur, the Mozilla Indonesia community manager, shared a picture on Twitter of one of the company’s town hall meetings. But the image was later deleted from his account.
When asked if Mr. Eich might step down if the controversy surrounding his political donations and his beliefs continued to grow, Mr. Eich said he served as chief executive at the request of the board of Mozilla, and it would be up to those members to decide his fate.
“I serve at the pleasure of the board. I would have them ask me to step down,” he said. “Until then I have to be C.E.O. 100 percent.”
He said that his beliefs would not change the way he managed the company or how employees were treated at Mozilla. “I’m supporting all of the same benefits we’ve always supported across L.G.B.T. equality,” he said.
When asked if he still supported the ban on gay marriage, Mr. Eich declined to answer directly.
“I really don’t want to talk about personal beliefs,” he said, declaring that not everyone can separate their personal views from their business views. “I think I have.”
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