Gay & Right-Wing Both Agree: D.C. College’s Diversity Chief’s Suspension for Signing Anti-Gay Marriage Petition Wrong
The administration at the nation's most prominent school for the deaf in Washington, D.C. has put its chief diversity officer on paid administrative leave after she signed a petition that opposes marriage equality in Maryland, NBC News reports.
Dr. Angela McCaskill of Gallaudet University signed a petition that opposes a referendum to support Maryland's gay-marriage law. The diversity officer signed the document at her church after her preacher spoke against same-sex marriage.
In November, voters in the state will vote on the measure, which would formally recognize marriage equality in the state.
Planet DeafQueer blog broke the news on Monday. Bloggers noticed that a faculty member of the college had signed the petition after a lawsuit made the name public. Gallaudet University's officials quickly addressed the issue.
"I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately," Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz said in a statement. "It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer; however, other individuals feel differently."
Hurwitz added that he will use the time McCaskill is on leave to figure out what to do next and to consider "the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim Chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future."
According to Buzzfeed, Gallaudet spokeswoman Catherine Murphy said the school does not have "a policy against political participation. For the moment, we are sticking with this statement," she told the website. "Please understand that in an administrative personnel matter we won't be saying anything more until we get complete clarity on what took place."
Even gay marriage activists are criticizing the school's decision to suspend McCaskill and say that she should be protected by freedom of speech.
"We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately," Josh Levin, campaign manager of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said in a statement. "Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6 (the referendum on the ballot), which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law."
The chair of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a group that wants to ban same-sex marriage in the state, also opposed the suspension of the school's faculty member, the Washington Blade points out.
"I join an ever-growing number of Marylanders in expressing my complete dismay over Gallaudet University's decision to place Dr. Angela McCaskill on administrative leave for signing the marriage referendum petition," McCoy said.
President of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins also commented on the incident. "Gallaudet University's discriminatory action reflects a troubling nationwide trend of voter intimidation and bullying tactics against those who uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman," he said in a statement.
Director of Clemson University International Center of Academic Integrity Teddi Fishman backs Gallaudet's decision, however.
"If a person is responsible for ensuring equal opportunities for students regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and that person goes on record as being opposed to equal opportunities for people based on their gender and sexual orientation, it certainly appears that there is some incongruity," she wrote NBC News in an email. She added that if she were involved in the situation she would talk with McCaskill to "make sure that her commitment to equal opportunity to all students does indeed extend to them all and to monitor the situation more carefully than I might have done had she not signed the anti-marriage petition."
One of McCaskill's duties is to promote diversity and inclusiveness in all of the college's programs and activities for all groups. That includes members of the LGBT community.
An anonymous source, however, told the Washington Blade "There is a long history of competition between black and white deaf people and gays and straights on this campus." The source also told the publication that "LGBT students and faculty members at Gallaudet were genuinely upset that someone they viewed as a supporter and ally would sign an anti-gay petition, especially in her role as head of the school's diversity and inclusion program."
NBC News notes that McCaskill is the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet. She has worked at the university for 23 years in different positions, including the deputy to the president and associate provost of diversity.