Without question, Brendan Eich is one of the people who made possible the globally-connected world we take for granted. As the New York Times put it, Eich "has helped develop some of the web's most important technologies."
In addition, he was the co-founder of Mozilla, a non-profit whose Web browser, Firefox, broke Microsoft's stranglehold on the browser market.
Yet, none of this mattered to the folks at Mozilla, who recently forced him to resign two weeks after he became its CEO.
His offense? Supporting traditional marriage.
Specifically, it was a $1,000 contribution he made to the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign in California.
Upon hearing about his promotion to CEO, OKCupid, a dating site, issued a statement accusing Eich and people who agree with him of seeking to "deny love and instead enforce misery, shame and frustration." It added that "we would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid."
Inside of Mozilla, the response was mixed: some employees, including gay ones, disagreed with Eich's position but defended his hire as an expression of the openness that Mozilla regarded as one of the highest values. Others, including application developers, threatened to stop working with Mozilla if the hire stood.
After trying to explain himself and vowing to remain on the job, Eich succumbed to the inevitable and resigned.
Then something odd happened: Many prominent gay marriage supporters were appalled at what happened and didn't hesitate to say so. Andrew Sullivan, who was probably the first major figure to champion same-sex marriage, called the reaction to Eich's views "a repugnantly illiberal sentiment." He also called it an "unbelievably stupid" and "bad, self-inflicted blow" for the gay-rights movement, one that it may come to regret.
Bill Maher on his HBO program, "Real Time," said "I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked."
It's a measure of how distasteful some gay-marriage supporters found Eich's treatment that Maher of all people felt free to voice that sentiment.
As Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, another gay-marriage supporter, put it, "This is a mess."
To say the least, I might add. But anyone who is shocked by this repugnantly "illiberal sentiment" hasn't been paying close enough attention.
For the past several decades, the scope of what constitutes protected and permissible speech has been narrowing. Views that were commonplace in 2008 are regarded as beyond the pale now. Remember that then-candidate Obama held views similar to Eich's.
Evidently, the only way to get back into good graces is to publicly recant your position. One of the developers objecting to Eich's position declared himself "sad" at the news of Eich's resignation. His "sadness" didn't come as a result of regret over how Eich had been treated, but that Eich didn't "apologize for the discrimination under the law that [same-sex couples] faced."
Eich is "free" to believe what he wants in private, so long as he publicly proclaims the "acceptable" position on gay marriage.
To his credit, Eich declined to go along with this auto-da-fe, and in the process, reminded Americans that Inquisitions aren't limited to medieval Spain. And I, for one, welcome the fact that even gay-marriage supporters believe this has gone too far.