Nate Silver Ranks Anti-gay Marriage Donations in Silicon Valley


Following the controversy surrounding Mozilla’s (now former) CEO Brendan Eich and his $1000 donation in support of California’s Proposition 8 back in 2008, statistician Nate Silver looked at just how rare such anti-gay donations are in Silicon Valley. 

Wrote Silver:

Silver-tech-prop-8-v3In total between these 11 [Silicon Valley-based Fortune 500] companies, 83 percent of employee donations were in opposition to Proposition 8. So Eich was in a 17 percent minority relative to the top companies in Silicon Valley.

However, there was quite a bit of variation from business to business. At Intel, 60 percent of employee donations were in support of Proposition 8. By contrast, at Apple, 94 percent of employee donations were made in opposition to Proposition 8. The opposition was even higher at Google, where 96 percent of employee donations were against it, including $100,000 from co-founder Sergey Brin.

There isn’t much data on Mozilla. Only four Proposition 8 donors listed it as their employer: Eich, who donated in support of the measure, and three others who opposed it. But it’s likely that employee sentiment at Mozilla is much like that at Google. The organizations share a lot in common; Google accounts for a large share of Mozilla’s revenue, and both are based in Mountain View, Calif. Mozilla has a reputation for progressivity, and almost all donations by its employees during the 2012 election cycle were to liberal or libertarian candidates and causes.

Silver notes, however, that these figures only reflect employees who were willing to donate publicly, for or against Proposition 8. 


  1. jpeckjr says

    Nate Silver always provides helpful information and insights.

    So here’s an observation: Out of the literally hundreds of thousands of employees these 11 companies had in California at the time, fewer than 1500 made any contribution at all to either side in the Prop 8 campaign? And the total was less than $1 million? What does that tell us about the engagement of Silicon Valley workers on this question?

  2. Ben M says

    Re: Intel – It appears the employees in favor for Prop 8 often have a connection to Provo, UT and likely heeded their faith’s (LDS I assume) call to donate. For instance, the largest Intel donation in support of Prop 8($40k) appears to be from a person who now works at BYU. Another ($6k I believe) was educated at BYU. I leave both unnamed because I cannot confirm their actual identities right now.

  3. will says

    I don’t believe Brenden Eich should have been fired because he’s said he’s never let his anti-gay marriage views inform his work as CEO of Mozilla or at Netscape where he cfreated JavaScript. His Prop 8 donation was a personal, outside issue. Of course he’ll still be on the payroll, he helped FOUND that company. It’s partly his. I’m sure he stepped down for the good of his company. In a sense, you can’t be actively homophobic working in computer programming — it’s like working in the Hollywood film industry.

    We have to be careful going around with this McCarthyism against basically decent people. This guy is not Tony Perkins or Brian Brown of NOM. He expressed a PRIVATE view privately (agaisnt gay marriage, not gay people) and never let it interfere with his work.

  4. Quicksilver says

    @Will “Decent people” do not proactively push for policy that denigrates an innocent class of people out of irrational fear and hate. I don’t care for numerous types of humans, but I do not advocate for their unhappiness, disenfranchising and persecution by donating to legislation that denies them equal treatment under the law. It’s a simple matter of live and let live. Mr. Eich chose to publicly state his violation of the Golden Rule. He got what he had coming to him.

  5. dearcomrade says

    No Surprise on the Intel numbers if you look at the companies performance, technology leadership and culture. It is a very conservative company that almost completely missed the mobile computing boat. Are they in any smart phones? Tablet PC’s?

    Intel is a very risk adverse company where individual initiative is absolutely forbidden and creativity is stymied, just the opposite of companies like Apple and Google.

  6. says

    @Will: He didn’t express it privately. Expressing it privately would mean personally opposing marriage equality but taking no action to prevent it. He took a public action to deprive people he works with of civil rights. Participating in an effort to strip gay people of basic protections is acting against them. Those who actively supported Prop 8 supported harming gay people. You can’t separate the two if you take action.

    But you’re right about being actively homophobic. Increasingly, it doesn’t wash in corporate America and especially in Silicon Valley. Eich was a coward who refused to either stand by his actions (most people are proud of their contributions to causes they believe in) or refute them. That cowardice was in direct opposition to his company’s values. That’s what did him in, not any sort of “McCarthyism” on the part of the gay community–the gay community has actually had a diverse reaction to his stepping down.

  7. Mikey B. says

    (1) You’re in the wrong article; cut and paste elsewhere.
    (2) Actually, being against gay marriage is being against gay people. This is worse than pushing us to the back of the bus; it’s kicking us off the bus.
    (3) It’s not okay to be a “a private racial bigot” and contribute to racist causes. The same should be true for being “private sexual orientation bigot” and contribute to homophobic causes.

    @JPeckJr: As the article states, these only are the employees who were willing to publicly be counted.

    @Ben M: Oh man, the Mormons.

  8. Turing's Ghost says

    I work in the tech industry and know all of these companies. If you looked at the average age of employees of Intel, Cisco, and HP, the mean age would be much older than the average age of Google, Apple, and Yahoo employees. So the age demographics of all of these companies just reflect the greater US population. The younger the employee, the more likely they will support gay rights and marriage equality. There is also a difference between Electrical Engineers (EEs) vs. Software Engineers (SEs) when it comes to politics. The former are more conservative. HP, Cisco, and Intel are essentially hardware companies with more EEs. Google, Apple and Yahoo are web based companies with more SEs. And, of course, there are the different corporate cultures defined by their leaders and founders. For instance, Steve Jobs was a supporter of gay rights in the 1980’s – and had no qualms making a gay man this successor. The values of a tech CEO becomes ingrained in a tech company’s overall culture. Which is exactly why Mr. Eich had to leave Mozilla.

  9. Turing's Ghost says

    Will, please note that Mozilla (both the corporation and foundation) are non-profit entities. While Mr. Eich was instrumental in the formation of Mozilla, Mr. Eich does not own part of any of the Mozilla entities. Please further note that Mr. Eich was not “fired”. He resigned. A tech companyk’s culture is a reflection of its senior leadership. When Mr. Eich lost the support of the Mozilla employees and thousands of contributors, he did the honorable thing and resigned.

    Mozilla’s budget is $300M per year, the majority coming from license royalties from Google. It would not be inconsistent for Google, exercising their right to free speech, to have withdrawn financial support due to a loss of confidence, thereby devastating Mozilla to the point of near total destruction. Lets give Mr. Eich his due. He did what was right for Mozilla and resigned. He can continue to contribute to whatever organizations he pleases and all is well in the world.

  10. anon says

    Intel is more conservative in the sense the employees tend to be older and more conservative, but the company itself is a better place to work than say Apple or Google. It has a fairly equitable workplace with few privileges for senior employees and a fairly flat hierarchy overall. Junior engineers get to voice opinions and concerns almost at will. The contrast with Apple under Steve Jobs could not be greater. Google isn’t like Apple, but it’s ruthless and demanding in its own way.

  11. Turing's Ghost says

    Anon, I agree. My points were just directed towards a possible explanation as to why employees of one company would support gay marriage vs. the others. It was not intended to comment on which company is best for employees and certainly not for partners. I have worked for or with every company on this list. All are very tough negotiators. The exception, Sun, didn’t make it as a standalone company.

  12. jexer says

    It’s reasonable to hold leaders to a higher standard of behavior, ethics, diplomacy and tact. Eich’s actions were divisive and gravely insulting to those who were stripped (temporarily) of their right to marry by something he helped make happen. His choices were rightly seen as a kind of betrayal by the group he led which is known for their inclusiveness. He was right to step down. To do otherwise would mean that mozilla, in part, endorses his damning perspective of lgbt people.

  13. Retro says

    @Randy “I’m less interested about the employees, and more interested in the executive.”

    Ditto. I don’t really care who/what donates within a company. Sure. There are always going to be be bigots and h8ters in a company. But the reason to care about Eich was because he was CEO. How can a company like Mozilla be taken seriously about promoting some core value of inclusiveness and diversity, if the CEO doesn’t even reflect that supposed value. Goes toward the development of corporate culture.

  14. Håkon says

    James apparently doesn’t understand the difference between CEOs (the public relations ‘faces’ of companies) and regular workers.

    Don’t turn in your gay card, James – just turn in your sentience card.

  15. James says

    I am the VP of IT at a start up tech company – and will keep Intel’s data in mind when designing our units for production. I also have the freedom to decide where my money goes…

  16. Joe in Ct says

    It’s a Mormon thing, like magic underwear, I suspect. The Mormon church simply encouraged their followers to support Proposition 8 and Mormons pretty much do whatever they’re told to do.

  17. Bill says

    @ Jon B : Intel also has a campus in Folsom, California, about 15 miles from Sacramento, plus several nearby states – Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

    Folsom is in the Central Valley area, which voted heavily in favor of Prop 8, and Mormons heavily contributed from out of state. I’d imagine that is some of the nearby states, the contributions from employees would predominantly be Mormon ones as people generally don’t contribute to initiatives in other states.

    You’d have to look at the breakdown for Intel in Santa Clara specifically to tell more. You should also keep in mind that opinions on Prop 8 in this area become more in favor the further south you go (e.g., towards Morgan Hill and Gilroy).

  18. Bill says

    @Will: Sullivan probably mis-analyzed Section 1102 of the California Labor Code. He quoted it accurately, but the incident does not impact just Eich, as any employee could feel threatened if he/she made a contribution to the “wrong” political cause/initiative/candidate. The question is whether that perceived threat is at a high enough level to be a violation of the law.

    Regarding Javascript, while Eich invented the initial version at Netscape, that version was incredibly buggy and resulted in frequent browser crashes. Javascript was subsequently refined and turned into a standard called ECMAScript (the official name, with Javascript being the nickname that gets used most of the time). The implementations got better over time, and it took a lot of effort.

  19. Rowan says

    Great civil discourse here, what Towleroad used to be and I hope continues more in this vein-people commenting who know their stuff. Very informative, thanks guys.

    WILL, it’s always good to see a different point of view on this subject, though tbh, there has been some here albeit somewhat reactionary and not very factual. Saying that, I am open enough to occasionally agree with Sullivan on some of his points against the gay ‘community’ but I find him too inconsistent and agenda fueled to list him as an effect to much ideas out there.

    This being one of them. But he is no academic, so he is entitled to his very subjective stances I guess.

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