Maybe the closet isn’t such a bad thing — if only you can get the right people into one.
That is the premise of the crusade against Brendan Eich. Maybe our heterosexual allies who have been so vehement on our behalf can be forgiven for not appreciating the natural consequences of this movement; but if gays can’t oppose what is happening, there is no meaningful definition of “irony” left.
Californians in particular should take heed. Andrew Sullivan helpfully cites our Labor Code section 1102, which explicitly prohibits discriminating against employees based on their political beliefs and actions. But that’s just the start.
That statute, along with its companion section 1101 served as the foundation for launching the public part of the gay rights movement in this state. In a 1979 case called Gay Law Students Ass’n v. PT&T, our Supreme Court ruled for the first time that lesbians and gay men could not be discriminated against by employers based on their public activities in support of gay equality. The case did not say they can’t be discriminated against for being homosexual — it was strictly based on public political actions.
Here is the court’s reasoning:
A principal barrier to homosexual equality is the common feeling that homosexuality is an affliction which the homosexual worker must conceal from his employer and his fellow workers. Consequently one important aspect of the struggle for equal rights is to induce homosexual individuals to “come out of the closet,” acknowledge their sexual preferences, and to associate with others in working for equal rights.
In light of this factor in the movement for homosexual rights, the allegations of plaintiffs’ complaint assume a special significance. Plaintiffs allege that PT&T discriminates against “manifest” homosexuals and against persons who make “an issue of their homosexuality.” The complaint asserts also that PT&T will not hire anyone referred to them by plaintiff Society for Individual Rights, an organization active in promoting the rights of homosexuals to equal employment opportunities. These allegations can reasonably be construed as charging that PT&T discriminates in particular against persons who identify themselves as homosexual, who defend homosexuality, or who are identified with activist homosexual organizations. So construed, the allegations charge that PT&T has adopted a “policy … tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees” in violation of section 1101, and has “attempt[ed] to coerce or influence … employees … to … refrain from adopting [a] particular course or line of political … activity” in violation of section 1102.
Eich, of course, is not an employee, so this doesn’t apply to him in particular. But it is very clear that if he had not publicly supported Prop. 8 so many years ago, he would be CEO of Mozilla today. And he is not alone in his beliefs.
That’s what the closet feels like, to those of us who have been there.
I don’t think there is much chance of marriage equality failing in California any more due to Eich’s — or anyone else’s — urging. It’s now even possible to imagine some form of relationship recognition as a federal constitutional right.
But even if there were, trying to enforce silence on one side of a debate is a time-tested malevolence, which gays more than anyone should recognize. Pretty much all of the civil arguments against equality have failed because they were given the space to be aired against the opposing arguments. What is there to gain today, except some noxious exhilaration, by trying to silence or punish the true believers?
We had to be silent once. That’s nothing to wish on anyone.