Gallaudet Officer Placed on Leave After Signing Same-Sex Marriage Petition

Angela McCaskill's signature was seen as an act of intolerance.

Posted: 10/18/2012 05:07 PM EDT

Angela McCaskill is at the center of a storm at Gallaudet University for signing a petition that put Maryland's same-sex marriage law to a statewide vote.

McCaskill, the school's diversity chief, was placed on administrative leave.

Since signing the petition was widely perceived as tantamount to opposing same-sex unions, McCaskill's signature was viewed by the university's president as being an act of intolerance, a transgression for an officer who is in charge of diversity.

"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 T. Alan Hurwitz, the university president, in a statement.

"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," Hurwitz said.

Before long, McCaskill offered her position on the matter. Her reputation was damaged, she said, adding that she had experienced stress over the incident. Furthermore, she announced that she was seeking compensation from Gallaudet.

At a press conference, McCaskill insisted that she is not homophobic but that she sought only to exercise her political rights. She has offered no opinion publicly on the question of same-sex marriage.

"No one had the right to determine what my signature meant," she said, through an interpreter at a news conference in Annapolis.

Gallaudet's president stated that he would like McCaskill to "return to the community from her administrative leave." He added that she has been "and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward."

J. Wyndal Gordon, McCaskill's lawyer, said that his client planned to return to work at the university, but that "we would like to have some discussions with the school first."

For many, the issue extends far beyond McCaskill herself.

"It's a direct threat to our system of democracy," said Aisha N. Braveboy, a member of the House of Delegates and head of Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus. 

"If a person's livelihood and their ability to provide for themselves and their families can be placed into jeopardy because they decided to exercise a basic constitutional right," Braveboy added, "we risk our citizens deciding not to avail themselves to rights guaranteed by our constitution."

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(Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade)

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