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Gallaudet administrator placed on leave for signing Md. marriage petition

Dr. Angela McCaskill heads the D.C. university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage

Angela McCaskill (Photo courtesy of Gallaudet University)

Gallaudet University has placed a senior administrator on leave after she reportedly signed a petition against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

The school’s president, T. Alan Hurwitz, confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that he has placed Dr. Angela McCaskill, associate provost of diversity and inclusion, on paid administrative leave.

“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; however, other individuals feel differently,” he said. “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. In the meantime an interim Chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future.”

The website PlanetDeafQueer reported that an unidentified Gallaudet faculty member filed a complaint with the university last week after discovering McCaskill had signed the petition that prompted the Nov. 6 referendum on the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March. A database of signatories that the Washington Blade published in July notes that Angela Patrice McCaskill of Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County signed it.

McCaskill has been in her current position since Jan. 2011. Her official biography says she has worked at Gallaudet for 23 years.

“Dr. McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition does not automatically declare her support for or against same-sex marriage. It merely indicates that she wants to see the decision made by the people and not the legislature. But if her employer is able to restrict her right to engage in the petition-gathering phase of democracy, are they also allowed to enter the voting booth and dictate how she votes?” said Derek McCoy, chair of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, the group opposed to Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, in a statement. “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. If such attacks can be made before same-sex marriage is law, how can homosexual activists in good faith say that religious liberties will not be attacked if Question 6 passes?”

The Blade will provide further updates as they become available.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Tom

    October 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    An attorney is going to win this woman MILLIONS!

  2. Jeri Hughes

    October 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    I am not comfortable with this. I do not like human rights being subjected to a popular vote, and I know that marriage equality is the just choice. however, I do not feel that individuals should be subjected to what is essentially punishment for having an opinion that is in opposition to my own. where will that end, and begin for that matter. all liberty is built on the foundation of free speech and expression. without that, there is no freedom. what do you think?

    • Oatsey Rogers

      October 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      she's Chief Diversity Officer ? oh brother

    • Eric Chamberlain

      October 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      She didn't just express an opinion, she actively advanced legislation to deny equality to Marylanders.

    • Jeri Hughes

      October 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      signing a petition for a referendum is not legislation to deny equality. even assuming it is, it would reflect her opinion. as a diversity officer, i find her actions highly suspicious. on one hand, she could potentially hold that matters of any particular debate should be put to a vote by the people. the concept of a government 'by the people" supports this. however, the rights of a minority should never be subjected to a popular vote – particularly a vote determined by the majority which discriminates against the minority. these matters are better served by legislators, and the courts. but we are getting away from what i believe is the most important issue. is the woman being penalized for expressing her opinion? and are we going to condone and justify the penalty, or defend the woman's right to be wrong? "It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something many people find at least reasonable. But the defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive. That was true when the Nazis marched in Skokie. It remains true today."

    • Matt Kleid

      October 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      It will end when bigotry is snuffed out of existence, Jerri. The world isn't big enough to accommodate it by one iota, least of all by a person in such a capacity as McCaskill. Signing that petition is a dereliction of your duty to your fellow human being. Expression of bigotry is hate, and it is not harmless opinion. Cultural reinforcement of stigma is the leading cause of suicides among gay youth. These people have blood on their hands.

    • Jeri Hughes

      October 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      and when popular opinion supported it, frank kameny was fired for stating that "gay is good." two wrongs do not constitute a right. IMHO, the defense of freedom of speech is a sacred duty. and necessary most when it is inconvenient.

    • Eric Chamberlain

      October 10, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      Jeri, from the state board of elections:

      Each signature page of the petition must contain a statement, to which each signer subscribes, that: 1. The signer supports the purpose of the petition

    • Becky Neighbor

      October 11, 2012 at 1:15 am

      just dont anyone vote for mitt romney or we may as well go back to communism

    • Brooks Dean

      October 11, 2012 at 4:02 am

      Matt Kleid What if hadn't signed the petition, but was simply opposed to same-sex marriage and voted that way in the referendum? Would that be different?

    • Jeri Hughes

      October 11, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      "We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately," Josh Levin, campaign manager of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said in a statement. "Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6 (the referendum on the ballot), which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law."

    • Jeri Hughes

      October 11, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      obviously, i am not the only individual who holds the concept of free speech and opinion as a sacred right. Thank God.

    • Eric Chamberlain

      October 12, 2012 at 1:10 am

      What does this had to do with free speech? How is the government limiting her speech or her opinion? She acted as a citizen legislator and advanced a piece of legislation denying a minority the fundamental right to marry.

    • Matt Kleid

      October 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      Jeri Hughes, all atrocities in history begin with hate propaganda. Before extolling the virtues of open mouth, consider what you would do if you could go back to the 1920s and imprison every member of the German Workers' Party who spoke out against the Jews. Would you shrink from saving 11 million pople? No. You would not, because hate speech is a tool used for one sole purpose, to deprive people of a place in society and the protection of the law. I am quite confident that you cannot name one shred of productive, constructive, enlightening, pacifying, positive, or legitimate hate speech. Though, I invite you to try.

    • Jeri Hughes

      October 16, 2012 at 1:46 am

      actually,matt, the atrocities began with prohibiting any opposition to whatever political dogma was being forced down peoples throats – whether it was anti-semitism, communism, fascism, or liberty, equality, and fraternity. personally, i could provide a speech that hates oppression, intolerance, or bigotry. and i would welcome the right for bigots to be able to voice their opinion that opposes my own. because without the freedom of expression, of opinion, no other freedom exists. you may be living in some form of security, but it is false. you are no longer free. if you silence your enemies voice, you also silence your own. "Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear." Gandhi

  3. Linda Niemi

    October 11, 2012 at 3:43 am

    doctorate is not enough education for this woman.

    • Brooks Dean

      October 11, 2012 at 4:10 am

      This incident aside, Dr. McCaskill has had a remarkable career characterized by a fierce committment to social justice and equality. Even if you believe that this petition thing doesn't exactly line up with that, her life and long professional record should not be flippantly defined by this one issue.

      • Joel

        October 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        Her life shouldn’t be defined by the “one issue” that is THE civil rights issue of our time? Civil rights isn’t something that creeped up as a racial thing in the 60’s. Civil rights includes many things, and the nature of her job is to support diversity and inclusion. Would NOM allow someone to be the vice president at its organization while supporting gay rights in his/her private life? I doubt it.

        • Booker

          October 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

          I’m not sure if it’s really THE civil rights issue of our time, considering that we don’t even have anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT’s in most states, but that aside: if you know anything about McCaskill’s long professional history, this seems more like a weird quirk than something characteristic of her. From what I’ve read, students and faculty at the university are so shocked by this precisely because she’s always been so proactive and sensitive regarding LGBT concerns.

    • Eric Chamberlain

      October 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Why not? She clearly does not think the LGBT should be afforded equal protection under the law.

  4. Joel

    October 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I love how opponents of marriage equality consistantly claim that tolerance of gays leads to religious oppression. Conservatives are already doing that! Every time they tell a military chaplain that favors gay marriage that he/she cannot perform the marriage and every time they tell inclusive congregations that their gay weddings will not be respected, that IS religious intolerance!

  5. Jeri Hughes

    October 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    “We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” Josh Levin, campaign manager of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, said in a statement. “Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6 (the referendum on the ballot), which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

    obviously, i am not the only individual who holds the concept of free speech and opinion as a sacred right. Thank God.

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Gay man attacked, beaten by neighbors in Northeast D.C.

Police list incident as hate crime but courthouse ‘backlog’ could delay arrests

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors and fears for his life. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

A woman, her daughter, and a man believed to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched a gay man in the face while the mother called him a “Jewish faggot” and other anti-gay slurs during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of an apartment building where the victim and the two women live, according to the victim and a D.C. police incident report.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, told the Washington Blade the incident began after the mother began shouting anti-gay slurs at him as he walked past her and his roommate outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13. 

Zephir identifies the mother as Aurlora Y. Ellis in court papers seeking a restraining order against her that he filed in D.C. Superior Court. He said she had acted in a hostile way toward him before the assault incident.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” Zephir told the Blade in an email.

He said that minutes before the Oct. 13 attack, Ellis yelled the words “Jewish faggot” when he walked past her as she was talking to his roommate, Steven Johnson. Zephir said it is well known among his neighbors at the apartment complex that he is of the Jewish faith.

“I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir wrote in his email to the Blade. 

“I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he wrote. “Mr. Johnson tried to break us up when her daughter Latera Cox and [Cox’s] father assaulted me,” according to Zephir’s account of the incident. “Ms. Ellis yelled, ‘Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.”

At that point, Ellis, her daughter Latera Cox, and the man Zephir believes to be Cox’s father fled the scene, Zephir told the Blade.

The D.C. police incident report, which lists the assault as a suspected hate crime, says, “All three suspects then fled east bound” on the 4800 block of Fort Totten Dr., N.E.

Zephir said he immediately called police, who arrived on the scene and took a report on the incident. The report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as a simple assault, which is a misdemeanor under D.C. law.

But Zephir said a detective working on the case told him this week that police were looking into speeding up the process of obtaining warrants for the arrest of the three attackers based, in part, on the injuries Zephir suffered from the attack. He provided the Blade with a medical report issued by the Washington Hospital Center, where his roommate took him to the emergency room the day following the attack, in response to severe pain he was experiencing to his face and head.

The report from the hospital, which treated and released him on Oct. 14, says he was diagnosed as having a fractured nose; a fracture of the “interior orbital wall,” which is the bone surrounding one of his eyes; subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleeding of his left eye; and “laceration of oral cavity” which means an injury inside his mouth caused by trauma from the assault.

Zephir told the Blade that the same detective told him last week that due to a “backlog” in cases at the D.C. Superior Court, it could take between one and two months for police and prosecutors to obtain warrants for the arrests of the two women and the man who assaulted him.

A police spokesperson told the Blade the case remains under active investigation. A spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which acts as the prosecutor for adult criminal cases in D.C., said he would look into whether the office could publicly comment on the status of efforts to obtain arrest warrants for the three attackers.

Zephir said rumors had surfaced prior to the assault incident that Ellis may have access to a gun. Based on what he feared was a threat by Ellis when she told him during the attack that “this isn’t over yet,” he said he persuaded his roommate to drive him to the courthouse on the same day as the attack to apply for a court restraining order to prevent Ellis from harming him again.

Court records show he also filed a civil complaint against Ellis, Ellis’s daughter, and Ellis’s roommate, Linda Miller, who Zephir says in the complaint acted as an “enabler” for Ellis’ hostility toward him.

The complaint, which is a civil lawsuit that Zephir wrote by hand and filed by himself without hiring a lawyer, calls for $18,000 in damages.  

“I have nightmares,” Zephir told the Blade. “I can’t believe it happened. I keep reliving the experience over and over and over in my head,” he said. “And I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own apartment. I don’t feel safe because I, honest to God, feel like she is going to bodily harm me and I might be, God forbid, murdered.”

Ellis, Cox, and Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Biden endorses Roem for re-election

Former journalist is first out trans person in any state legislature

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. President Biden has endorsed her for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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