October 16, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gallaudet diversity officer blasts school for suspension
Angela McCaskill, Wyndal Gordon, Maryland marriage petition, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Gallaudet University, Washington Blade, gay news

“I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated,” Angela McCaskill said in a press conference today. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gallaudet University’s chief diversity officer said her reputation was unfairly “tarnished” last week when the university placed her on administrative leave for signing a petition earlier this year to place Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum.

At a news conference outside the Maryland State Capitol Building in Annapolis, Angela McCaskill, who served as Gallaudet’s Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion, identified an out lesbian faculty member as the one she claims persuaded Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz to “retaliate” against her by suspending her and essentially calling for her “termination.”

She identified the faculty member as Martina Bienvenu and said that Bienvenu and her partner, Kendra Smith, acted as “extremists” by advocating for the university to unfairly discipline her for signing a petition McCaskill said she had a constitutional right to sign.

Bienvenu and Smith couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

“I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated,” she said, adding that Hurwitz sought to punish her for merely exercising her private right as a Maryland resident to sign a petition to allow the voters to make the final decision on whether the same-sex marriage law should be retained or overturned.

“They have attempted to intimidate me and tarnish my reputation,” she said.

McCaskill’s news conference came hours after the university released a statement saying it wants to talk to McCaskill about reaching an agreement that could lead to her reinstatement.

Her attorney, J. Wydal Gordon, told the news conference McCaskill suffered damages by the university’s action and she would seek compensation for the damages. He declined to say whether McCaskill planned to file a lawsuit and seek monetary compensation.

“We will gladly meet with them,” he said of the university offer to discuss ways to reinstate McCaskill.

McCaskill stated repeatedly that she remains neutral on the gay marriage ballot referendum. She said her decision to sign the petition to place the marriage question on the ballot was based on her strong belief that all controversial issues should be put before the voters in Maryland.

She said she is a strong supporter of the LGBT community and noted that she has pushed for funding for Gallaudet’s one-year-old Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally (LGBTQA) Resource Center.

Aisha Braveboy, Maryland marriage petition, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Also speaking at the news conference in support of McCaskill’s reinstatement was Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy, who chairs the state legislature’s Black Caucus. Braveboy told the Blade that some caucus members support the same-sex marriage law while others oppose it. She said the Caucus was “highly troubled” that Gallaudet would penalize McCaskill for exercising her rights as a Maryland citizen to promote democracy through the petition and referendum process.

McCaskill thanked by name both Josh Levin, chair of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the lead organization advocating for support of the same-sex marriage law in the referendum campaign; Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, and Derek McCoy, head of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, another group campaigning against the marriage equality law. McCaskill noted that all three people spoke out against her suspension and called on Gallaudet to reinstate her.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

28 Comments
  • kudos to Dr. Angela McCaskill for having the courage to come out and reveal the truth. It's a sad day when members of the deaf community go too far to tarnish another member of the deaf community. The deaf cultured community in the last five years online has been subjected to similar attacks. Extremists would disagree with non-extremists view and as a result, retaliate by contacting employers or place of education. Yes, this is "Agree with me, or else" mentality. And, it has to stop.

    • It mirrors exactly what happened online in the deaf community the last five years. A shame, yes! I can list all the names of bloggers and vloggers who experienced the same thing. The fact that it happened to a high profile person surrounding a high profile issue, the truth came out, is poetic justice.

      • Gina Sutton, nothing is new with you. Still full of malice. Always take the opportunity to attack Deaf people whenever they stood up for what is right. What Angela did is wrong and you popped out of your grief to attack us all over again. I’m so grateful that you’re not that popular so I don’t have to deal with you online. Good riddance, b***h.

        • Ha, like what? You’re talking about you, right?! It’s all you’ve done, is to attack everyone because they don’t agree with you. You’ve got people on GU FB site, telling you to stop throwing insults and attacking everyone, on your wall and on a few other FB groups. I have not had anyone telling me this, it’s because I do respect theirs, whether I agree with them or not. This is something you can’t say for yourself. A fact. You can’t dictate to anyone how they should think. I don’t care what your views are or anyone’s. This is my view, take it or shove it.

  • This woman should be fired. She isn’t fit to be a diversity officer if she doesn’t support diversity in her personal views. Diversity doesn’t just mean black related issues. It means equal rights for for gay people too. Lets put the shoe on the other foot. What if a white diversity officer signed a petition against a black civil rights issue. He would be fired so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

  • This story should be updated to mention that Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy wanted to amend the Maryland constitution, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and successfully moved the effective date of the Civil Marriage Act from October 2012 to January 2013.

    If McCaskill is tolerant why is she having a bigot like Aisha Braveboy next to her?

  • Maybe the rights of the deaf should be put to a vote, or the rights of African Americans. People like act like that was never controversial. Here's a tip, when a minority's rights are controversial, that is a hint that they probably should not be put to a public vote. It's shameful that this "diversity officer" thought otherwise.

  • Dr. Angela McCaskill thanked Tony Perkins of Family Research Council? This sh*t – I could not make it up for a script. HAHAHAHA – Angela, you had an opportunity to come clean and you blew it away. You're nothing but selfish woman. Shame on you, Angela.

  • I have a better suggestion. Let's leave the referendum to the student body and let them decide if they want to keep Angela or not.

    R-

  • I'm not impressive to her speech. I lost her respect!

    Dear Angela McCaskill, where is your apology? you lost my trust and other students. Look that majority of students will boycott events if you are there UNLESS you resign as CDO first. I admire Dr. MJ Bienvenu because she presented about vision of communication skill for Deaf Community. I was appalled that you used her name as bullying, but you failed to resolve issues with her and Gally President in private. You are totally hypocrites and selfish! Shame on you, Angela!

  • A diversity officer thinks that minority rights should be put to a popular vote? Shameful. Does that extend to ALL minority rights that may be controversial? What about the Americans With Disabilities Act? What about the Voting Rights Act? Lilly Ledbetter Act? Loving v. Virginia should have been decided by popular vote, along with Brown v. Board of Ed? Would she also include Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in that category? Title IX? I think her true views on “diversity” need to be explored a bit more to determine if she really believes that no rights should be granted or clarified based on legislative or judicial action.

  • Dr. McCaskill isn’t just a garden variety employee making widgets. She is an adult with professional responsibility to advocate and protect students who feel harmed or who have been harmed because of their difference. This isn’t really an issue of free speech as is so carelessly asserted. Her signature on the referendum petition affirms her intention to allow others to take away legal rights from certain people. The same certain people she is supposed to protect and advocate for on the job.

    Gallaudet is absolutely correct to consider whether McCaskill’s private behavior compromises her ability to do her job. Since she must not only be an advocate & protector, she must be credible as an advocate and protector.

    The irony here is that the Catholic Church is yelling from the rooftops that their right to discriminate will be infringed if gays can get married. Isn’t that what Senator Nancy Jacobs was worried about during the hearings in the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee — that bakers with “deeply held beliefs” won’t be able to refuse to sell cupcakes to gay couples celebrating a wedding, or anniversary or their children’s birthday ?

    We know for certain that the Archdiocese of Baltimore was well within their legal rights as a private employer when they terminated April Flores, a 25-year veteran teacher at Sacred Heart of Mary School, when they discovered that she married her female partner in Washington DC in 2009. This private conduct was perceived to be incompatible with the Catholic school mission statement – and so she was fired.

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