For many in the LGBT community the word “hate” is no longer a noun or a verb. It’s simply an overused adjective with which some have fallen in love.
Following the controversial decision last week by Gallaudet University to place Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave in response to her having signed a ballot petition in her residential locale in Maryland to qualify a voter referendum on the state’s pending same-sex marriage law, consternation and condemnation was the overwhelming reaction.
McCaskill, a 23-year employee at the D.C. campus of the nation’s leading university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, is the first deaf African-American female to earn her Ph.D. from Gallaudet. She was suspended by President Alan Hurwitz following a complaint by a faculty colleague, reportedly an out lesbian, who had discovered McCaskill’s name on the list of signatories published by the Washington Blade.
In announcing the decision, Hurwitz indicated that McCaskill’s petition signing had caused members of the university to be “concerned and confused” – terms more aptly self-applied.
Gallaudet proved more than a tad bit ironic in demonstrating an inability to tolerate a diversity of opinion by its own diversity officer. Although irrelevant, it soon became known that McCaskill had not signed the ballot petition as a result of any anti-gay animus, instead considering it a legislative issue best decided by the democratic process.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, other same-sex marriage supporters and Marylanders for Marriage Equality quickly criticized the university’s decision to punish McCaskill and called for her immediate reinstatement. “We strongly disagree with the decision,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for the organization supporting approval of Question 6, said in a statement. The group also placed an ad in The Capital newspaper condemning the suspension, noting that the issue was “being able to express one’s opinions, freely, and participate in the political process.”
The Washington Post editorialized against the university action, pointing out “there is no evidence that her views on gay marriage, whatever they are, affected her performance at work. To the contrary, until now she was known for supporting a new resource center for gay students on campus. Firing, or threatening to fire, a diversity officer for off-campus political activity strikes us as inconsistent with ‘open sharing of thoughts and ideas.’”
Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy, chair of the legislature’s Black Caucus joined McCaskill at a press conference outside the State Capitol Building in Annapolis this week, indicating that the Caucus was “highly troubled” that Gallaudet would punish its Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion.
Also troubling was the frequently vitriolic comments posted online at mainstream media news reports and on both LGBT and general audience blogs supporting the institution’s indefensible actions.
Worse, a number of the commentaries introduced a new term into the vernacular: “Hate voting.”
This outrageous epithet is presumably reserved for those with opposing political views. A companion expression to the milder “hate chicken,” recently espoused regarding Chick-fil-A.
Is alleged “hate voting” a “hate crime”?
Friends and relatives reportedly described McCaskill encountering “why do you hate me?” inquiries.
Voter petitions are available for public inspection, including for the purpose of verifying ballot qualification. Technology allows easy dissemination of names and addresses.
Although access to such information is a little creepy and can lead to abuse, that genie now roams outside the bottle. However, the notion that identifying neighbors and coworkers with differing political views will result in Kumbaya doorstep dialogue is disingenuous. It will garner further public process disengagement and make petition signature gathering more difficult.
Hurwitz announced on Tuesday the option for McCaskill to return to her job, likely fearing a lawsuit and ongoing blowback. However, he indicated there were unspecified hoops through which she needed to jump.
A public apology is what is called for, Mr. Hurwitz, plus maybe a few extra credit courses in constitutional law.
Maryland voters will soon decide the fate of marriage equality. Let’s hope they overlook Gallaudet University’s boneheaded actions against a fellow citizen and the “hate reaction” by some members and supporters of the LGBT community.
All we can hope is that they not hate us.
Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.