Donald Sterling and Brendan Eich are worlds apart

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Much has recently been made of the effective sacking of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich over his opposition to same-sex marriage, and rightly so. Even many SSM supporters blanched at the idea that the creator of Javascript could lose his job as head of a tech company simply because of his views on this question. A number of prominent advocates of same-sex marriage published a statement calling for freedom of conscience on the issue to be respected.

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But after the recent case of Donald Sterling, the basketball team owner who received a lifetime ban from the NBA after making a series of blatantly racist comments about black people, Eich's been taking renewed heat in the blogosphere and the press. The argument goes that in supporting Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that briefly defined marriage as being between a man and a woman before it was struck down by the State Supreme Court, Eich is not different in any meaningful way from a racist like Sterling. The argument hasn't come entirely from same-sex marriage supporters either – some have used the comparison with Eich's hounding to defend Sterling.

Two excellent responses to this line of thought come from Will Saletan, a socially liberal writer for Slate; and David French, Senior Counsel at the American Center of Law and Justice, and a social conservative.

Both argue that any comparison between Eich and Sterling is ridiculous. French:

Honestly, if conservatives feel they can’t argue for the different treatment of Sterling and Eich, then they should just grab their gun and dog and head for the hills, because it’s all over for them. They’ve given up.

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Eich was on the right side of the issue, he treated his colleagues well, and he was an outstanding contributor to his company and industry. Sterling was horribly wrong, committed multiple acts of actual racial discrimination, and was long known as the worst owner in all of professional sports.

Saletan, who supports same-sex marriage, concludes after making an exhaustive comparison of Eich and Sterling's respective records:

If you believe that a person who withholds the term “marriage” from same-sex relationships is bigoted, prove it. Surely such a bigot will have said or done something, beyond that position, to show anti-gay bias. Some supervisor, colleague, subordinate, or associate will step forward with an allegation. That’s what has happened, again and again, with Sterling. Yet after 16 years at Mozilla, nobody has come forward with such a story about Eich. At some point, you have to ask yourself why. Is it possible that a person can oppose same-sex marriagewithout treating gay and straight people differently in any other context? Is it possible that the assumption of bigotry was misconceived?

Both posts are worth reading in full. Donald Sterling and Brendan Eich have nothing in common – and the fact that some people are eager to equate them says more about them than it does about Eich.

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