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Opinion: Columnists

Don't expect consistency from the tolerance lobby

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Photo - In this Oct. 4, 2012 photo, Irene Huskens, right, and her partner, Leia Burks, sit on the front porch of their home in Bowie, Md. Huskens has the wedding venue picked out: a charming bed-and-breakfast in southern Maryland. But the wedding is no sure thing. Their plans hinge on whether Marylanders make history on Nov. 6, 2012 by voting to legalize same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/David Crary)
In this Oct. 4, 2012 photo, Irene Huskens, right, and her partner, Leia Burks, sit on the front porch of their home in Bowie, Md. Huskens has the wedding venue picked out: a charming bed-and-breakfast in southern Maryland. But the wedding is no sure thing. Their plans hinge on whether Marylanders make history on Nov. 6, 2012 by voting to legalize same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/David Crary)
Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists

Angela McCaskill, welcome to Robert J. Smith's world.

McCaskill's name you might be able to place. She's been in the news lately. She's the chief diversity officer for Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., but her job status is in limbo. When the petition to have Maryland's same-sex marriage law put on the November ballot to have Marylanders give it either an up-or-down vote, McCaskill signed it.

Somehow officials at Gallaudet got wind of McCaskill's action. When they did, they put her on (wink, wink) "administrative leave." And no, neither the Maryland nor D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has come rushing to her defense.

Groups opposed to Maryland's same-sex law have called for McCaskill's reinstatement. And, to their credit, so have groups and individuals in support of the law.

But the damage has been done. Supporters of same-sex marriage might be supporting McCaskill now, but what they should have done, and done long ago, is chide those supporters of LGBT rights for the cavalier, careless and downright arrogant way they toss around the word "bigot."

Opposed to same-sex marriage? Then, in the eyes of some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their supporters, you're a bigot.

When Maryland state Del. Emmett Burns unwisely sent a letter to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti urging him to silence one of his players who supported same-sex marriage, it inspired punter Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings to send Burns a profanity-laced email.

What was one of the things Kluwe called Burns? Why, a bigot, of course. And what do all right-thinking people do with bigots? Why, fire them from their jobs, of course. Why should bigots be allowed to make a living?

Remember those days of yesteryear, when bigots were REALLY bigots? That's changed considerably, but, to be fair, those in the LBGT community and their supporters aren't the only ones responsible for the change. All kinds of people throw the word "bigot" around. It's done so much that the definition of the word has been reduced to what Ambrose Bierce called it in his "Devil's Dictionary," published in the early 20th century. "Bigot: one who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain."

That's precisely where we are today. McCaskill is on (wink, wink) "administrative leave" because of her opinion on a controversial topic, and for no other reason.

Six years ago, Robert J. Smith was fired from his job on the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for pretty much the same reason. The man who fired Smith, former Maryland Gov. Robert J. Ehrlich Jr., is a conservative to moderate Republican. And, to his credit, he didn't whip out the "bigot" card on Smith.

But Ehrlich did fire Smith for what the then-governor perceived as his not being onboard with the Ehrlich administration's commitment to diversity. Ehrlich made a bad call then, and it's still a bad call today.

Smith was a regular panelist on a show in the D.C. area. One day he made the mistake of telling listeners how he truly felt about the issue of homosexuality. "Homosexual behavior, in my view, is deviant," he said. "I'm a Roman Catholic."

He later explained: "The comments I make in public outside of my job I'm entitled to make [and] have absolutely nothing to do with running trains and buses and have not affected my actions or decisions on this board."

The issue wasn't how he felt about homosexuality, but whether he made decisions that adversely affected gays and lesbians in his job as a WMATA board member. He didn't. Smith was fired for the same reason McCaskill is on (wink, wink) "administrative leave" -- for having an opinion that members of the LGBT community and their supporters don't entertain.

There was a time we called that McCarthyism. What should we call it today?

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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