Conservatives and even some liberals across the nation are outraged after Gallaudet University suspended the school’s chief diversity officer after she signed a petition in her church to put a gay marriage referendum on the ballot in Maryland.
Angela McCaskill, a 23-year veteran of the university, was placed on paid leave as the university investigates her support for traditional marriage.
“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,” wrote Gallaudet president T. Alan Hurwitz in an email sent to the campus community.
McCaskill’s attorney said they will hold a press conference on Tuesday — stressing that his client is not “anti-gay.”
McCaskill was one of 200,000 residents who signed a petition to put “Maryland’s Question 6” on the ballot. The measure is a referendum on same-sex “marriage.”
The Washington Blade published the names and addresses of every person who signed the petition. An anonymous faculty member spotted McCaskill’s name in the newspaper and immediately notified authorites.
Hurwitz said McCaskill, who earned the school’s first Ph.D as a deaf African-American woman, was immediately placed on leave. Her job remains in jeopardy.
McCaskill’s pastor denounced the university’s decision and called it “beyond the boundaries of civility.”
“Unfortunately, Dr. McCaskill and her family have been subjected to threats and intimidation as a result of the media coverage of the actions taken by President Hurwitz on behalf of Gallaudet University,” said Lee Washington, pastor of Reid Temple. “As her church family, we stand firmly by her side and welcome all persons of good faith, regardless of their ideological views to denounce these actions of cowardice and bullying.”
Washington also said what happened to McCaskill should serve as a warning to all Americans who support traditional marriage.
“It is a clarion call for Marylanders who value religious liberties and individual rights to vote against question six,” he wrote in a statement on the church’s website.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the university’s president should be fired “for violating our most basic civil rights.”
“Gallaudet University’s action underscores that far more is at stake in redefining marriage than two people walking down the aisle,” Perkins said. “Indeed, the very livelihood of business owners and employees is at stake.”
More than 50,000 have signed a Family Research Council petition calling for the university to reinstate McCaskill.
“If marriage is redefined, we can fully expect to see more of these discriminatory actions taken against anyone who espouses marriage as it has always been defined,” Perkins said.
Even some supporters of same-sex marriage are calling on the university to reinstate McCaskill – including Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign manager Josh Levin said she “should be reinstated immediately.”
Although the group supports gay marriage, Levin says “everyone is entitled to free speech.”
The Washington Post weighed in on the matter in an editorial titled, “Gallaudet’s Mistake.”
“Firing, or threatening to fire, a diversity officer for off-campus political activity strikes us as inconsistent with “open sharing of thoughts and ideas,” the newspaper wrote.