Both Richard Stallman and John Sullivan have issued statements concerning the allegations made against the FSF by Libreboot’s lead developer.
On Friday we reported that Libreboot’s lead developer, Leah Rowe, had posted a notice to a GNU mailing list, removing her project from GNU. The reason she gave was that a friend employed by the Free Software Foundation, had been dismissed for discriminatory reasons. “The Free Software Foundation recently fired a transgendered employee of the FSF, just for being trans…,” she wrote. “I’m declaring here and now to the whole world that Libreboot is no longer part of the GNU project.”
Friday afternoon after we published our report, Richard Stallman, founder and president of FSF, posted a brief, unofficial statement in an email to the thread around Rowe’s email. “The dismissal of the staff person was not because of her gender,” he said. “Her gender now is the same as it was when we hired her. It was not an issue then, and it is not an issue now.”
Later Friday evening, John Sullivan, executive director of the FSF, posted an official statement to the organizations website. “This morning, an open email circulated in which the author said that the Free Software Foundation ended a relationship with one of our employees for discriminatory reasons,” he began. ‘Although it is our usual policy not to comment publicly on internal personnel matters for privacy reasons, we felt it necessary to state unequivocally that the allegations made in that email are untrue.”
This is pretty much what I expected to hear, and not because organizations always deny allegations of discrimination whether true or not. Both the FSF and the GNU projects dedication to “freedom” extend beyond the realm of software and into human rights. The discrimination alleged by Ms Rowe would not be in keeping with the character of the organizations.
“While we understand that it is difficult whenever an employment relationship ends, the suggestion that the separation was a result of discriminatory animus is unfounded,” Sullivan’s statement concluded. “In the interest of protecting the privacy of all involved, we expect this to be our last public statement on the matter. We wish our former employee the best in all future endeavors.”
This is a tricky situation for the FSF. Due to privacy issues they can’t, and probably shouldn’t, say more on this matter. By the same token, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to the conclusion that Rowe or her friend were purposefully being untruthful. When you’re the member of persecuted minority it’s sometimes easy to assume that every action taken against you is the result of your minority status.
Unless we hear otherwise, and directly from Rowe’s unnamed friend, that should be the end of it. Now let’s hope that Rowe and the GNU Project can patch things up and return Libreboot to the fold.