Gallaudet criticized for putting diversity officer on leave

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Photo - Gallaudet University (Examiner file photo)
Gallaudet University (Examiner file photo)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Gallaudet University has put its chief diversity officer on leave for signing an anti-gay marriage petition -- a move that was quickly met with criticism from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

School President T. Alan Hurwitz announced the decision to place Angela McCaskill, the school's chief diversity officer, on paid leave in a letter to the university community on Wednesday.

"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," he wrote. "I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university."

McCaskill was one of about 110,000 Maryland residents who signed a July petition to put the state's law legalizing gay marriage to a public vote in November. That referendum is on the ballot as Question 6.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called for Hurwitz to be fired. FRC spokesman J.P. Duffy said the university was engaging in "voter intimidation" and that incidents like it would continue if Question 6 passed.

"Participation in the democratic process is fundamental," Duffy said. "They're trying to instill fear in people."

Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, called for McCaskill's immediate reinstatement. He later said Duffy's claim was untrue.

"Question 6 is about fairness and equality," Levin said. "We called for Dr. McCaskill to be reinstated because everyone should be allowed to participate in the political process."

McCaskill was the first deaf African-American woman to earn a doctorate from the university, according to her biography on the school's website. She has worked at Gallaudet for 23 years and has led the university's Office for Diversity and Inclusion since January 2011. The office worked with LGBT organizations like the campus' Rainbow Society throughout her tenure, including events for Gay Pride Month in June and National Coming Out Day last October.

"The Student Body Government, Graduate Student Association, and Rainbow Society are working together to ensure a balanced decision will be reached and creating a safe place for the Gallaudet community to discuss the situation," Rainbow Society President Johanna Martin said in an email to The Washington Examiner. "Rainbow Society is looking forward to a forum/dialogue where the student body will talk about the issue, where everyone is equally represented, regardless of their opinions."

According to Hurwitz's letter, an interim chief diversity officer will be appointed in McCaskill's stead while the university decides how to handle the situation. School officials would not comment further, and McCaskill could not be reached Thursday for comment.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner