Gallaudet University Employee Suspended for Signing Petition on Same-Sex Marriage

Dr Anglea McCaskill (CNA)

Evidently, academic freedom and the right of citizens to petition their government is a hit and miss thing at Gallaudet University.

Dr Angela McCaskill was placed on administrative leave from her position as chief diversity office at Gaudet University for exercising her right as an American citizen to sign a petition calling for a vote of the people.

The petition in question sought to allow the voters of the state of Maryland the opportunity to vote for or against allowing a law legalizing same sex marriage that had passed through the Maryland Legislature. Dr McCaskill has stated that she signed the petition because she wanted to give the citizens of the state the right to vote on the issue.

All American citizens, including homosexuals, have the right to advocate for changes in the law through lobbying, the electoral process and the courts. I support homosexuals’ right to do this unequivocally. However, the people who disagree with them on various issues have the same rights.

These bullying tactics cheapen their cause.

A CNA article describing Dr McCaskill’s situation reads in part:

Annapolis, Md., Oct 24, 2012 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A university employee who was placed on administration leave said that she has been humiliated and intimidated for her belief that Maryland voters should determine whether to implement a “gay marriage” law in the state.

“I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance, a university that manages by intimidation, a university that allows bullying among faculty, staff and students,” Dr. Angela McCaskill said at an Oct. 16 press conference in Annapolis, Md.

“I am pro-democracy,” she stated, explaining that she believes it is important “that we as the citizens of Maryland have an opportunity to vote.”

McCaskill, a deaf African American, spoke in sign language with the help of an interpreter to explain how she had been removed from her position as Chief Diversity Officer at Gallaudet University, an institution that serves the deaf and hard of hearing.

In March, a law to redefine marriage in the state of Maryland passed, but it was delayed from taking effect until January 2013, allowing time for its opponents to put it before voters in a November referendum.

McCaskill was one of 200,000 Maryland residents who signed a petition to put the measure before the people. Now, she believes that she is facing intimidation and punishment from her employer for exercising her rights.

At the press conference, McCaskill said that she had been approached by Martina Bienvenu, a Gallaudet University faculty member in the American Sign Language and Deaf Studies department.

Bienvenu asked her if she had signed the petition, and she replied that she had.

“In this very moment, she determined that this signature meant I was anti-gay,” McCaskill said, explaining that Bienvenu and her partner wrote a letter to the president of the university asking that she be punished.

On Oct. 10, university president T. Alan Hurwitz announced that McCaskill was being placed on paid administrative leave. He said that he would announce an interim Chief Diversity Officer and would “determine the appropriate next steps.”

Upon hearing the news, McCaskill said she “couldn’t believe it.”

“I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated,” she explained. “Not only for myself, but for the students of Gallaudet University. They deserve better.”

“I offered to have a campus-wide dialogue on this very sensitive issue,” McCaskill said.

“I believe in civil discourse. I thought it was important that as a citizen of the state of Maryland, that I could exercise my right to participate in the political process.

“I thought that this would have been an incredible opportunity to teach our campus,” she explained. “Unfortunately, that opportunity was lost.”

She said that the university has “allowed misinformation to be circulated throughout the campus community,” adding that her reputation and 24 years of service to the university have been tarnished. (Read more here.)

  • arkenaten

    What nonsense.
    If 99.99% of Maryland agreed with her position, signed the petition and voted against gay marriage does this mean it is right to prejudice the rights of the 0.01%?
    What if she wanted to sign a petition that wished to vote on oral sex?
    For goodness sake!
    What harm are gays causing? Truly? On a worldwide scale of abominations and horror?
    Sexually abusive elements in the Church are of much greater concern.
    There are a million and one problems that need sorting out and some people are obsessed with this issue merely because it grates their religious sentiments and they think gay sex is ícky’.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Ummmm … I think you miss the point. By maybe a 100 miles.

      It wasn’t her petition.

      She signed a petition calling a vote.

      That is her right as an American citizen.

      Universities are supposed to be places where people can be comfortable about exploring different ideas … including, I would think, her evidently controversial support of the right to vote.

      This has nothing to do with the church. It is a civil matter. I have no idea if she is a Christian, much less a Catholic.

      If she wanted to sign a petition on oral sex, that would be her right.

      • arkenaten

        No, I did not miss the point. She was suspended for signing a petition.
        The fact that there was a petition to sign is ridiculous , and I get the distinct impression that although the petition was for a vote on the subject of gay marriage those that started it were oppossed am I correct? This is tacit discrimination. So maybe you are missing the point , by 101 miles, Rebecca.
        And, yes, it would be her right to sign a petition on oral sex. However there is something insidious when the motivation behind such a petition is discriminatory.
        Imagine if a petition was circulated calling for a vote on whether African Americans should be allowed to travel on the same buses as White Americans?
        Would you even CONSIDER signing? God forbid.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          So … you agree with the university for suspending her?

          • arkenaten

            Was the petition seeking a vote pro or against gay marriage?

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Based on the story, I would say it was a petition to allow a popular vote on a statute legalizing same-sex marriage passed by the Maryland legislature.

              • arkenaten

                So, let me see if I understand this .The Maryland legislature has ALREADY technically legalized same sex marriage. So the point of the petition is to try to get enough signatures to pressurise the Maryland legislature to overturn their ruling, yes?
                Is this a correct?

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  No. The Maryland legislature passed a statute legalizing marriage. You got that right.

                  The petition was to gather enough signatures to require a referendum, or popular vote, on the statute. There’s no “pressure.” It’s a vote of the people. If the referendum passes, the statute will be overturned, by a vote of the people.

                  It’s called Democracy.

                  • arkenaten

                    I am not sure if my previous comment is still in the ‘machine’ or, as the others, has been deleted.
                    If the latterI really see little point in further interaction.
                    If the former, then maybe I’m jumping the gun.
                    Either or,
                    Should this petition may be considered part of the democratic process in the eyes of some yet it fall woefully short of basic ideals of compassion and understanding where a large group of people would bully a legislature to discriminate against a minority group.
                    Under these circumstances it is shameful.
                    As to whether this woman should be dismissed? Well, she has quite clearly NOT been dismissed, rather put on leave pending an investigation, it seems. I do n ot think it is fair she should lose her job ovewr her personal views on this particlar case, yet if her work at the Varsity is as Kenneth describes her position should she return might prove extremely uncomfortable for her. Maybe not.
                    I would ask a question to end with.
                    If there is such an uproar of gay marriage in Maryland, how on earth did this bill/law /statute get passed in the first place?

        • Ted Seeber

          I would sign such a petition because I see through the lie- that gay marriage is in and of itself discriminatory and hate filled.

          • Reluctant Liberal

            How so?

            • Ted Seeber

              It redefines marriage in such a way that excludes polygamous couples, bigamous couples, non-consensual couples, interspecies couples, and inter-matter couples.

              If you’re going to redefine marriage to make it utterly meaningless based on the idea that traditional marriage discriminates, why discriminate yourself?

              If, on the other hand, you’re actually for the human species continuing, and are for having a civilization with rules and morality, then evolution (and therefore God) have given us ONE CLEAR WINNER in how to treat human sexuality- heterosexual monogamy. Every other form has huge amounts of biological and psychological danger associated with it, objectively.

              The fact that we can now handle that danger with increased technology, is immaterial to the decision whether to be moral or not. And if you’re going to be immoral, then have the courage to be FULLY immoral.

  • Sus

    “There are a million and one problems that need sorting out and some people are obsessed with this issue merely because it grates their religious sentiments and they think gay sex is ícky’.”

    Great comment arkenaten. I find the Catholic Church’s interest in gay sex kind of perverted. Why do they care so much?

    • vickie

      What is perverted is the attempt to force acceptence of immoral life styles and an unholy experiment on the structure of the family.

      • arkenaten

        Not immoral. Just different.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Thank you, Pope Douglas I.

        • Ted Seeber

          Thank you Comrade Douglas. Just march in lockstep with that Fatherland!

      • WFS

        No, no Vickie,

        These are not your traditional families that you are used to seeing. They are just people of a different sexual preference. They don’t bother us, and we shouldn’t bother them. They’re bot trying to make any changes to your family.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I don’t know that I agree with you WFS. It looks to me like that are bent on erecting a wholly intolerant web of laws and regulations that, as in this instance, curbs the freedoms of everyone who disagrees with them. As to them being “different” kinds of families; they aren’t families at all. They are at most couples, or perhaps households.

          • Ted Seeber

            I will temper my other responses in this thread with this statement: I do believe the way out of this mess is to steal the thunder from the gays, and reduce the interests of government in the whole process to *registration of responsible parties for a given household*.

            We could, I don’t know, call it a civil union or something like that.

            Have a standard web form based contract rather than a paper one, and you can also solve the problem of polygamous unions at the same time by making the signatories a linked list instead of “husband” and “wife”.

    • Ted Seeber

      Here’s why they care so much:

      A people without morality, is ripe for takeover by tyranny. Which is the entire point of atheism.

  • WFS

    Doh! As Ricky Riccardo says: “Gallaudet University, you got some ‘spaining to do”.

    As with most of my posts, I’m on the other side of the aisle. We have gay marriage in Massachusetts and it is no big deal. In fact the backlash is greater against those who speak out against it (e.g. Chic Fillet).

    Boy did they mess up! Somehow I think a lawsuit is in their future.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      In fact the backlash is greater against those who speak out against it (e.g. Chic Fillet).

      What are you talking about? The backlash against the gay faux-outrage against Chick Fil-A? You’re right, it did backfire. Chick Fil-A did better business during the “boycott” than they have in years.

      • Bill S

        I personally would not give up my Chick Fil-A sandwich over any political issue. Chick Fil-A is awesome. But if I were a Maryland voter, I would vote no against a referendum to change or repeal the existing law. It shouldn’t be up to the majority to take away the legal status of the minority.

        As you probably know, Mayor “Mumbles” Menino crossed the line when he said he would fight having a Chick Fil-A in Boston. That’s an embarassment. But that shows you where Massachusetts stands on the issue.

  • Sus

    I find it ironic that the woman’s job title was Chief Diversity Officer.

    • WFS

      Sus, I couldn’t help but notice that too. If I were Chief Diversity Officer, I wouldn’t have touched that petition wiht a 10-foot pole, But then I would not have been exercising my freedom to sign anything I want to sign. She stuck up for her rights and I’m sure she’s going to come out way on top.

    • Ted Seeber

      I find it ironic that you think Diversity doesn’t include people you disagree with.

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  • Ted Seeber

    I still think this is a strange meaning of the word “Diversity” that doesn’t exist outside of academia.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think you’re right Ted. The word “diversity” as they appear to use it in academia means the right to suppress opposing viewpoints and oppress those who hold them.

  • kenneth

    This is another case where the people bleating about being victim to fascist boot stomping conveniently forget that they’re pretty adept with a pair of jackboots themselves. When I first read this righteous outrage about freedom in the academy, I formulated a question. Would traditional marriage institutions, ie a Catholic diocese or college have tolerated someone in McCaskill’s position who had signed a petition taking the opposite position?

    Before I could proffer it as one of those rhetorical questions, a bit of research answered my own question about whether Catholic academia would extend the same tolerance they demand from Galludet. No, it turns out. In June of this year, a fifth grade Catholic school teacher in Moorehead Minn., Trish Cameron, was fired for having the “wrong” view on gay marriage. She didn’t even sign a petition. She was fired for a pure thought crime. When filling out some sort of ideological purity survey, she indicated she had some personal disagreement with doctrine. She indicated her personal views were kept out of the classroom, and as far as I can tell, administrators never accused her otherwise. This was not a person who was preaching erroneous doctrine or heresy or causing a public scandal of any sort. She was not performing any public advocacy of any kind for gay marriage causes so far as is known. Before you load another brick in the trebuchet, take a look around at the glass load-bearing walls in your own house.

    Let’s also be honest about one other point in the McCaskill situation. She did not sign that petition out of some abstract dedication to participatory democracy. She signed it because she opposes legal gay marriage. Outside of a few erudite philispophers/political scientist/Constitutional scholars, no one who favors gay marriage would vote to potentially overturn it for the sake of process. McCaskill signed it at a church gathering which was crusading against gay marriage. That’s all well and good, but I’d have a lot more respect for her position if she had the courage of her convictions to own it publicly.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Kenneth, thank you for this interesting comment.

      Gallaudet is a federally-chartered university. The school you are referring in your comment to is a privately-funded church school. It is quite common for church-funded schools to require doctrinal agreement from their employees. That practice reflects their reason for being: To provide an educational environment which is favorable, or at least not hostile, to the parents’ (or students’) religious beliefs. However, a federally-chartered university operates from an entirely different mandate, and neither would, not should, do this.

      You claim that Dr McCaskill signed the petition at a church gathering as if that was an accusation and damning one. Would you feel the same if she had been suspended for signing a petition at a Free Thinkers meeting or some other atheist gathering? I think it’s at least possible that you would be outraged and shouting about academic freedom and First Amendment rights.

      Gallaudet is a federally-chartered university, presumably for adults. Universities are considered places where there is academic freedom and openness to many ideas. Again, your example is about a 5th grade teacher in a church-sponsored elementary school. They are not the same thing.

      Your statement that you know what Dr McCaskill was thinking and what her motivations were in signing this petition certainly is bold. Other than your claim that she signed the petition at a church gathering (shudder) do you have any way of knowing that her own statements about her motivations are less informed than yours? Are you saying that you can read her mind?

      In truth, it doesn’t matter what her motives were. It was her right to sign this petition.

      • kenneth

        Of course it’s her right to sign a petition. I’m all for academic freedom. I don’t, however, give a lot of respect to people and movements who hold others to a standard they’re unwilling to apply to themselves. Saying McCaskill’s situation is unlike that of Cameron is, at best, a lawyer’s dodge reading of the two situations. In the court of common sense, they are very comparable. If anything, Cameron’s situation was more egregious. She lost her livelihood not even over free expression. She lost it over her own private, internal thoughts. Her willingness and ability to teach Catholic doctrine was never called into reasonable question. Her firing was the epitome of thought policing, of the same style as we’re told only liberals do. Do you really think that a movement which thinks that’s ok has any standing whatsoever to champion “academic freedom”?

        I don’t think McCaskill or anyone should lose their job over political expression, but her unique position created a real dilemma for the university. Her job, though titled “diversity”, has nothing to do with diversity as such. These positions are created as advocates for groups traditionally disenfranchised and persecuted in society at large and in education. That includes LGBT folks. Whether or not we agree with gay marriage, the fact is that the gay community considers it THE defining civil rights issue of their lifetime. It is as important to them as school desegregation and voting rights were to African Americans 50 years ago. McCaskill’s apparent opposition not unreasonable creates a crisis of confidence among the gay students and faculty she is supposed to be working for.

        Let’s project this backward and forward in time. If McCaskill had been an NAACP leader in 1963. She would have been well within her rights to sign a “state’s rights” petition. The organization, in turn, would seriously wonder why she was on the payroll and who she was really working for. Likewise, if McCaskill’s current job was as lead lobbyist for the USCCB and she spent her private time lobbying in favor of the HHS mandate, I think most of you would have something to say about that.

        We also need to consider some other facts in this case. McCaskill has not been fired. She is on paid leave and has ample opportunity to resolve the matter if she chooses to engage it rather than playing martyr. McCaskill is an administrator, a job that does not enjoy academic freedom tenure protections in the same way professors do. Administrators serve at the pleasure of the university president, and the president concluded that she has, by her own actions, undermined her ability to effectively carry out that leadership role. It is not clear to me whether she is also a tenured faculty member. If so, it is entirely possible that she may be entitled to return to those duties even if she is not able to continue as diversity officer.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          1. Do you honestly think that no college professors signed “state’s rights” petitions or something similar during those years?
          2. Diversity in a university or college (or anywhere else, for that matter) does not and can not require agreement with every political issue a majority of a group of people takes a position on. It refers to an openness to them in terms of having access to the good that the college or university offers in terms of education, jobs, access to research facilities, etc.
          3. “Ifs” about what job Dr McCaskill might hold are non sequitur.
          4. Academic freedom of the type that universities strive for does not have a place in elementary school. Do I need to explain the difference between the educational needs of adults and children to you? Also, a federally-mandated school is decidedly different from a private, church-run school. Do you understand the difference between federally-mandated and private, church-run?
          5. So far as I know, Dr McCaskill has not made a statement concerning the situation you reference concerning Ms Cameron. Unless you know of one, why are you saying that you “don’t give a lot of respect to people and movements who hold others to a standard they’re unwilling to apply to themselves?” How do you know she holds others to standards she is unwilling to apply to herself?
          If, on the other hand, you are referring to me, I would say the analogy on which you are basing your disrespect is flawed and inapplicable. On the other hand, if it makes you feel good to do it, disrespect me as much as you want. I’m fine with it.

  • kenneth

    “How do you know she holds others to standards she is unwilling to apply to herself?”…………
    I don’t know what she believes in this regard, and the issue is not even so much about your own position. However, in reading and responding to hundreds of posts like yours, it is increasingly evident to me that the Catholic persecution narrative and industry, which puts itself forth as the champions of freedom of conscience and expression, have no inherent commitment to those ideals. They are weapons cynically employed against those who disagree with their position. Their rights in the public square are sacrosanct and absolute. The rights of others outside of their tribe is, well, negotiable and discretionary. By their actions, Christians, at least the sort of culture war political ones, don’t have a problem with Caesar’s unbridled power. They’re just steamed that he, and not they, happen to be holding the scepter for the time being.

    It is true that a private grade school and public university are not comparable in terms of academic freedom. However, we have established, at least for the terms of a debate, that the private school was not acting to prevent or end any credible threat to their doctrine or teaching authority. They went after a teacher who was answering a self-evaluation in good faith, and then fired her for a thought crime. The fact that you can find nothing troubling at all about that scenario suggests to me that your commitment to the ideal of academic and personal freedom on the job are, at best, conditional. Should people as a general matter, have the right to hold and express their political views without workplace recriminations, or not? Or should it depend on whether they hold the “right” views?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      We are not talking about the “Catholic persecution narrative and industry …” I have no idea if Dr McCaskill is a Catholic, or even a Christian. You say she was at a church service when she signed the petition. She may or may not have been. However, even if she was, that doesn’t mean she was a member of the Church, nor does it tell you what she believes.

      You are also making bold statements about the beliefs and attitudes of 2 billion people who are Catholic. Then, you segue into a few unflattering comments about Christians in general, none of which are pertinent to the question of academic freedom.

      Then, you lapse back into an unrelated incident that, to be honest, I am unfamiliar with. I do know that I not believe that it is pertinent to this discussion. Your statement that “However, we have established, at least for the terms of a debate, that the private school was not acting to prevent or end any credible threat to their doctrine or teaching authority” is not accurate. We have established no such thing.

      Even if your analogy was a good one, and I don’t think it is, you cannot use one injustice (again, I don’t think this was, am just making a point) to justify another injustice.

      It appears, based on your many comments on this blog, that you are so full of hatred for the Catholic Church and Christians in general that you are using this situation to pole-vault yourself into your favorite narrative, which appears to be a rant against them and all the terrible things you claim that they do.

      I have a couple of questions: Do you feel the university was correct in the actions it took against Dr McCaskill? Is that what you are defending?

      • kenneth

        I don’t think McCaskill should be fired or disciplined for her political views or actions. I don’t think anyone in the university environment should even have inquired into her actions regarding the petition. Since it did come out, however, I think it’s incumbent on her to make it clear to the university community and particularly the student body that she is committed and capable of advocating on behalf of all students, including gay and lesbian ones.

        My statements have little to do with the beliefs of 2 billion Catholics. They have to do with a fairly small but vocal minority of Catholics, specifically the American bishops and politically conservative Catholics who have made gay marriage and few other divisive culture war issues the centerpiece of their faith life. They have tried to make Catholicism virtually synonymous with the Republican political agenda. There is a daily drumbeat of spin that casts any disagreement with doctrine as persecution of Catholics. They say Christians are just fighting for an equal space in the public sphere, but their actions reveal a desire to hold exclusive rights over that space.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I know that some Catholics try to narrow the Gospels down to a few convenient issues. That’s a human weakness that you will find in any group of people. I say that as someone who has been attacked and reviled by both sides of these culture wars. The tactics and behavior from the mean people on both sides is almost identical to one another. When you’re on the outside looking in, it came seem as if these nut cases are representative of the whole group. But I know that they are not.

          I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to say that the bishops are just following the Republican Party. They are not. Their teaching on marriage goes all the way back to the beginnings of the faith. It is nothing new, and it certainly is not based on hatred of homosexuals. Far from it. I think they have bent over backwards to make it clear that they do not consider homosexuals any less than children of God. They have also tried their best to work with the Democratic Party. It is the actions of President Obama with the HHS Mandate which is an outright attack on the First Amendment which has pushed them to become more political. As for the bishops attacking gay people, that is totally untrue. There are many gay Catholics, some of whom attend mass at my parish. They are as free to receive the sacraments as anyone else.

          What are the bishops to do, ignore 2,000 years of Christian teaching in order not to offend groups of people who regard any disagreement with them over their self-defined “rights” as bigotry? They would failed bishops and failed priests, false shepherds if they did that.

          As I said, I know very well that some Catholics behave badly. I’ve borne the brunt of that myself at times in my life. However, I can also say as a Democratic elected official that the Catholic bishops I know are just as ready to work with a Democrat as they are a Republican. What they are looking for is sincerity and fidelity of belief, not political party.

          • Bill S

            “You are also making bold statements about the beliefs and attitudes of 2 billion people who are Catholic.”

            I am counted among that 2 billion number yet I disagree with the Church on just about all of the hot button items in these discussions. I think you have to first eliminate the non-Church attending Catholics (they are many) and then the liberal Church attending Catholics and then use that number. We all want to be counted as Catholics because that’s what we have been our whole lives. Some, like myself, no longer believe in the supernatural, but we would never give up the love and community of our parish and organizations. These Catholics, I believe, act and vote more out of compassion than according to “Church teaching”. I don’t know where I am going with this, but I think the person we are talking about should simply be moved out of any position involving diversity and that all else should be forgiven and forgotten about.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Bill, you are a self-avowed atheist. I don’t want to be harsh, but so long as that is your thinking, I don’t see how you can call yourself a Catholic or a Christian. You are a person who may be confused and working his way through things. But if you don’t believe in Christ the Lord, how can you honestly say that you are a Catholic? You go to mass, attend Knights meetings, but a Christian is someone who follows and believes in Jesus Christ.

              As for Ted Kennedy, he certainly made a serious mistake about abortion, but he never that I know of ever disavowed Christ. In fact, I’ve seen interviews where he talks about going to church to pray in times in crisis and how deeply he felt that God had answered him. I’m thinking in particular of when his daughter got lung cancer.

              There is a huge difference between a disciple of Christ and a disciple of Dawkins.

              • Bill S

                Thank you for your feedback. You are someone I respect for both your faith and your advocacy for women based on your bio. I use you as a sounding board to see if it is safe to come out of the closet and it definitely isn’t, not for gays and not for atheists.

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  I don’t think it’s unsafe for either gays or atheists to “come out of the closet.” However, there is the price of not being able to have things both ways. I know all about this. As I told you, I tried to keep my atheist friends when I became a Christian. They were all I had and I cared about them. I also tried to keep my gay friends and follow the Church on marriage and the family.

                  I doubt that people in your parish will reject you as nastily as these people did me, but if you go down this path far enough the time will come when the differences will be too great to continue the friendships you have now with any intimacy.

                  None of this changes the simple fact that you cannot be a Christian and reject Christ. That is a simple matter of definition. Do you honestly think that you can stand before God one day and say I rejected you and taught others to do the same, but I am really your disciple? You are choosing death over life my friend.

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