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Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich steps down from role

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AP/Mozilla

Brendan Eich stepped down from his position as Mozilla’s CEO Thursday following an Internet firestorm sparked by his support for California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8.

Mozilla, the nonprofit maker of the Firefox browser, infuriated many employees and users in late March by hiring Eich, a co-founder, to lead the Mountain View company. In 2008, Eich gave $1,000 to the campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that outlawed same-sex marriages in California until the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a lower-court ruling striking it down.

The contribution was publicly reported and drew some negative attention two years ago, when Eich was Mozilla's chief technology officer. But when he was promoted to CEO, his support of the ban took on more gravitas.

Eich’s appointment prompted board members to quit, a Twitter frenzy and a push back from a leading dating website over his support for the former gay marriage ban.

Three of the Mozilla Foundation's six board members have quit, according to a Wall Street Journal blog, and thousands of employees and community members weighed in on Twitter.

On Thursday, Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed Eich’s departure in a blog post on the company’s website.

“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” she wrote. “We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.”

Baker said Eich chose to step down from his role and made the decision “for Mozilla and our community.”

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech,” she said.

The departure came a day after Eich insisted he would not leave the company over his support for Proposition 8.

“I don't want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we've been going,” he told the Guardian. “I don't believe they're relevant.”

Mozilla says about half a billion people around the world use Firefox, which has free, open software written in part by volunteers. Firefox has been losing market share to Google Inc.'s Chrome browser in recent years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.