A university in Maryland has placed an employee on administrative leave after she signed a petition to allow voters to decide the fate of a law redefining marriage in the state.
“Quite simply, it was well within her rights to sign the petition,” Derek McCoy, chairman of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said in reaction to the news.
“And furthermore, it is the responsibility of all American citizens to be engaged in the electoral process.”
On Oct. 10, Gallaudet University, an institution that serves the deaf and hard of hearing, announced that Dr. Angela McCaskill was being placed on paid administrative leave.
According to the university’s website, McCaskill “was the first deaf African American female to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet University” and has worked at the university for 23 years in various positions. In 2011, she became Deputy to the President and Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion.
“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,” said university president T. Alan Hurwitz in an email to the campus community.
Hurwitz acknowledged that “other individuals feel differently” but said that McCaskill was immediately being placed on leave. He explained that he would “determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university” and said that an interim Chief Diversity Officer would be announced soon.
McCaskill was one of more than 200,000 Maryland residents who signed a petition to allow voters in the state to decide whether to keep a new law that recognizes “gay marriage.”
In March, lawmakers approved legislation to redefine marriage in the state of Maryland, but the law was delayed from taking effect until January 2013, allowing time for its opponents to put it before voters in a November referendum.
Putting the measure on the ballot required nearly 56,000 Maryland signatures. The Maryland Marriage Alliance worked with other groups to collect more than 200,000 signatures.
Critics of the decision argued that McCaskill was being unfairly punished for participating in the political process.
“Dr. McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition does not automatically declare her support for or against same-sex marriage,” said McCoy in a statement. “It merely indicates that she wants to see the decision made by the people and not the legislature.”
“Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long list of attacks on individuals who express support for marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” he said, warning that religious liberty will come under attack if marriage is redefined in the state.
“Until a few years ago, a decision punishing an employee for engaging in the democratic process would have been jaw-dropping,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
“However, Gallaudet University 's discriminatory action reflects the troubling trend of intimidation and bullying tactics against those who uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” he said.
In August, a security guard was shot at the Family Research Council headquarters after the organization was labeled a “hate group” for its views on marriage.
“A person should no more be punished for signing a petition than they should be for voting,” Perkins continued. “This is a basic citizen's right to participation in our democratic process.”
He further criticized the university for claiming “to believe in diversity” while refusing to tolerate any differing views about marriage. The school’s actions show what is at stake with attempts to legalize “gay marriage,” he warned.
“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,” he said.
The Family Research Council has started a petition to reinstate McCaskill. By the end of the day on Oct. 11, it had drawn approximately 10,000 participants.
Gallaudet University did not respond to inquiries from EWTN News about McCaskill's situation.