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Md. marriage equality group opposes suspension of Gallaudet administrator

Diversity provost placed on leave for signing anti-gay marriage petition



Angela McCaskill, gay news, Washington Blade
Angela McCaskill, gay news, Washington Blade

Angela McCaskill was placed on Administrative leave when it was revealed she’d signed the Maryland marriage petition, after names of the petition signers were obtained and published by the Washington Blade.

The leader of the campaign supporting Maryland’s same-sex marriage law in a Nov. 6 voter referendum is calling on D.C.’s Gallaudet University to reverse a decision to suspend a campus diversity officer for signing a petition calling for overturning the marriage equality law.

Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, released a statement Wednesday evening expressing opposition to Gallaudet’s decision to place Dr. Angela McCaskill, a Maryland resident and the school’s Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion, on paid administrative leave.

“We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” Levin said in his statement. “Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6, which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

Levin’s statement followed by several hours a statement from Derek McCoy, chair of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, one of the leading groups calling on voters to defeat the same-sex marriage law in the referendum.

“I join an ever-growing number of Marylanders in expressing my complete dismay over Gallaudet University’s decision to place Dr. Angela McCaskill on administrative leave for signing the marriage referendum petition,” McCoy said.

The statements by Levin and McCoy marked a rare turn of events that placed the two opposing leaders and their organizations in agreement over McCaskill’s situation.

Gallaudet University is one of the nation’s most prominent colleges for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The news that McCaskill had been placed on paid administrative leave came from a statement issued on Wednesday by Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz.

“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,” Hurwitz 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,” he said. “In the meantime an interim chief Diversity Officer will be announced in the near future.”

McCaskill’s decision to sign the referendum petition was first reported by the blog Planet DeafQueer, a news site widely read in the LGBT deaf community throughout the country.

The blog reported that an unidentified Gallaudet faculty member filed a complaint against McCaskill with the university last week after discovering McCaskill had signed the petition that called for a referendum on the same-sex marriage law in Maryland.

Opponents of the marriage law gathered more than 200,000 petition signatures, far more than needed to place the law on the ballot in November after the Maryland General Assembly passed it and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the marriage equality measure in March.

In July, the Maryland board of elections made available to the public a database of all those who signed the petition. The Washington Blade published the database.

The unidentified faculty member at Gallaudet reportedly accessed the information from the Blade and discovered that Angela Patrice McCaskill of Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County was among those who signed the petition.

Planet DeafQueer reports that McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition came as a shock to the school’s LGBT students because she was a strong supporter of the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally (LGBTQA) Resource Center, which opened on National Coming Out day on Oct. 11, 2011.

The school’s website says her duties include promoting diversity and inclusiveness in all of the university’s programs and activities for all groups, including LGBT people.

“LGBT students, faculty and staff we spoke to said they felt shock, disappointment, anger and betrayal upon learning of the signed petition,” Planet DeafQueer reported in an Oct. 8 posting. “Some are calling for Dr. McCaskill’s resignation. Others are waiting for an official response from Dr. McCaskill and wondering if it will be possible for her to regain her trust,” the blog reported.

McCaskill could not immediately be reached for comment. Gallaudet’s official spokesperson, Catherine Murphy, didn’t return a call seeking comment as of late Wednesday.

According to Planet DeafQueer, prior to filing the complaint, the faculty member who discovered the signature confronted McCaskill about why she signed the anti-gay petition.

“Dr. McCaskill confirmed that she had in fact signed the petition and explained that she had done so while at church, after her preacher had preached against gay marriage,” Planet DeafQueer reported the faculty member as saying. “As she was leaving, her husband pointed to the petition and she signed it without giving it further thought.”

The blog report added, “Dr. McCaskill is expected to issue an apology.”

A source familiar with Gallaudet University, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Blade Hurwitz’s decision to place McCaskill on administrative leave has aggravated what the source called longstanding racial and gay-straight tensions within the campus community.

“There is a long history of competition between black and white deaf people and gays and straights on this campus,” said the source.

McCaskill became the first deaf African-American female to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, according to her official biography on the university website.

The source noted that LGBT students and faculty members at Gallaudet were genuinely upset that someone they viewed as a supporter and ally would sign an anti-gay petition, especially in her role as head of the school’s diversity and inclusion program.

But others, the source said, view the development as an overly hasty decision by Hurwitz, who is white, to remove one of the university’s few high-level black administrators over her decision to exercise her First Amendment right to sign a petition in her role as a private citizen of Maryland.

The source said members of an anonymous email network of people affiliated with Gallaudet known as the “Gallynet” denounced the decision to place McCaskill on administrative leave.

“Angela is tarred and feathered and lynched without ever having a chance to defend herself. Shame,” one anonymous person said in an email sent through the network. “So now it’s the LGBT community vs. us black deaf. Sigh!”

The source who spoke to the Blade expressed disagreement with this person’s claim that LGBT deaf people and black deaf people at Gallaudet were at odds with each other.

“The deaf gays, both black and white, are often caught in the middle of this,” the source said.


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  1. anonymous

    October 11, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Are you kidding me???? What has Josh Levin been smoking? Does he get that Dr. McCaskill is the school’s CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER? This is not just any position at the school. She has been entrusted to be the main advocate and champion of diversity and inclusion at the school. She is free to have her beliefs, but in this position, if her beliefs do not comply with the spirit of the position, she has no business being in that position. Kudos to President Hurwitz for taking swift action and making the right decision. Please remember, this is PAID administrative leave, which is basically a vacation for Dr. McCaskill while President Hurwitz considers whether or not to keep her in the position. She should do everyone a favor and resign. LGBTQA students on campus will never trust her again after this.

    • Fred

      October 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

      What ruthless unlawful, corrupt bullies these pro gay marriage supporters are. Of course she can be a good diversity Officer and support traditional marriage. The two things are not mutally exclusive. Where is the tolerance and diversity for respecting her christian values? Diversity is a two street not a dictatorship. This poor woman is the victim here of hateful intolerance by bigots who are anything but diverse.

      • Baltimatt

        October 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm

        Neither is support for same-sex marriage mutually exclusive with support for traditional marriage, despite our opponents constantly implying it is.

        However, I’m afraid this action will give ammunition to opponents of Question 6.

    • ridor9th

      October 11, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you!!!

      As an alumni of Gallaudet University, I applaud President Hurwitz for taking action on this issue. Black or not, it boils down to the very fact that if one is a Chief Diversity Officer, one must practice what they preach.


  2. Jason J.

    October 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

    While I completely agree that we have, and should continue to have, freedom of speech. I have to say I support her suspension. We are living in very crucial/critical times where thousands of peoples fundamental rights are on the line. We do not want to reverse the tides of time especially from diversity head regarding the civil rights of Americans.

  3. anonymous

    October 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Since over 200,000 petiton signatures therfore it is not fair for her being suspened becuase there is a possibility whose are similar with her job position.

  4. Fausto Fernandez

    October 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

    The question is: Can Dr. McCaskkill fulfill her duties as Chjef Diversity Officer? If she can, gthere’s no reason for her removal. Let her speak to clarify this.

  5. Willie Braxton

    October 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

    The lack in judgement disqualifies Dr. McCaskill from holding a position like hers in a city where Same-Sex marriage is legal. So she was pressured into signing the petition at Reid Temple A.M.E. Church? A person so weak should not be in a leadership position. Why is Reid Temple A.M.E. Church forcing members to sign a political petition in the first place? Reid Temple needs to be investigated.

  6. Worried

    October 17, 2012 at 8:29 am

    By suspending Dr. McCaskill Gallaudet has handed the anti-marriage equality folks a whole lot of ammunition. We’re still trying to convince the public that the passing Question 6 is simply a civil action for fairness. This move muddles that message and makes it look like gay marriage=fired conservatives. The school may be doing what’s right for Gallaudet, but it’s awful for Maryland marriage equality.

    Also, without political action in churches the US wouldn’t have had an abolitionist movement or a civil rights movement. Churches are well within their rights to organize politically, as my own church did to help Marriage Equality pass in DC, as long as they do not endorse candidates. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

  7. Anonymous

    October 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    This is like the pot calling the kettle black. Gally has a poor reputation for diversity. Just take a look at the staff and administration. I am Deaf and unfortunately, Deaf education has been led by mostly hearing, white professionals. If we were to compare the statistics between Deaf/hearing, Black/White, it would be difficult to say that Gally is the model for diversity. Furthermore, if we did comparisons on salary and job titles of the Deaf versus the hearing, I think we would understand how unacceptable it would be for this administration to even remotely think about firing someone based on the ideology of diversity. My opinion, is walk the talk before pointing fingers. I have friends that are LGBT and I would do anything for them but, that doesn't mean I don't support traditional marriage.

  8. Kel

    October 21, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Not sure but, I think this is like the pot calling the kettle black. If Gallaudet wants to talk about diversity and use this ideology as a basis to remove someone from staff, they need to remove MANY people on staff. I am Deaf and my opinion is that there is so much apartheid in Deaf education, they have no business even discussing the word “diversity”. Just take a look at the statistics of Deaf versus Hearing on staff, their salaries, titles, leadership positions versus positions that do all the grunt work, etc. Those in leadership positions with high salaries are mainly white, hearing professionals. Shouldn’t Gally be representing the Deaf, just as they believe Angela should be representing the LGBT? Gally is not qualified to even use diversity as a basis for removal of others unless they are willing to undergo scrutiny about just how diverse their staff and administration is.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote



Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker



Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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McAuliffe: Youngkin ‘most homophobic’ candidate in Va. history

Former governor spoke with Blade on Oct. 21



Terry McAuliffe (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Terry McAuliffe described Republican Glenn Youngkin as the “most homophobic” and most “anti-choice candidate” in Virginia history during an Oct. 21 telephone interview with the Washington Blade.

“I’m running against the most homophobic, anti-choice candidate in Virginia history,” said McAuliffe. “I ran against Ken Cuccinelli. That’s saying something.”

McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in 2013 defeated Cuccinelli, Virginia’s then-attorney general who vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights, in that year’s gubernatorial race. Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is running against McAuliffe in the race to succeed current Gov. Ralph Northam.

State Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) is running for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election. They are running against Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares respectively.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates is also on the ballot on Nov. 2. The outcome of those races will determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber.

Youngkin remains opposed to marriage equality

The Associated Press a day after McAuliffe spoke with the Blade published an interview with Youngkin in which he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia’s political action committee are among the groups that have backed McAuliffe.

Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Youngkin has also expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect trans and non-binary students.

HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. McAuliffe scoffed at this recognition.

“They should have checked with their co-CEO who’s against marriage equality,” he told the Blade. “That would have been the first place I would have gone to ask.”

‘I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody’

McAuliffe’s first executive order as governor after he took office in 2014 banned discrimination against LGBTQ state employees. He also vetoed several anti-LGBTQ religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board and became the state’s first governor to declare June Pride month.

McAuliffe noted to the Blade that he is also the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple whom he married has recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

“I spent four years vetoing every single legislation Republicans brought forth and came across my desk that would have discriminated against the LGBTQ community,” said McAuliffe. “I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody.”

McAuliffe noted that CoStar, a D.C.-based commercial real estate company, moved more than 1,000 jobs to Richmond from Charlotte after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. McAuliffe described HB 2 to the Blade as the “anti-gay bill.”

“There’s real consequences … to discriminatory actions and I will not tolerate any of it,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama campaigns with Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23, 2021. Obama is among the prominent Democrats who have traveled to Virginia in recent weeks to campaign on behalf of McAuliffe. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

McAuliffe last month said during his first debate against Youngkin that local school boards “should be making their own decisions” with regards to the implementation of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for trans and non-binary students. McAuliffe during his second debate against Youngkin stressed “locals” should provide input on the policy, but added “the state will always issue guidance.”

McAuliffe told the Blade he has “been so offended about how many folks have tried to really demonize our children here in this state.” McAuliffe referenced children with “self-identity issues” during the interview, but he did not specifically cite those who identify as trans or non-binary.

“We’ve got to help our children … we got to help our children who are desperately in need today,” he said. “And we got to show them that we’ll be there for them, as I say, no matter how they identify or who they love.”

Youngkin on Saturday during a campaign event in Henrico County said he would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools. McAuliffe criticized his opponent on this issue when he spoke with the Blade.

“Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia, nor has it ever been taught,” said McAuliffe. “These are dog whistles that are used, and especially in the CRT, it’s a racist dog whistle and it just fits into this whole pattern of using our children as political pawns and I hate it.”

Youngkin ‘would drive businesses out of’ Va.

McAuliffe has continued to portray Youngkin as an extremist on other issues that range from abortion and vaccine mandates as polls suggest the race between the two has grown tight. McAuliffe also continues to highlight former President Trump’s support of Youngkin.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin is “100 percent against abortion” and said his opponent would “bring those Texas-style type abortion” laws to Virginia.

The law, which bans almost all abortions in Texas and allows private citizens to sue doctors and anyone else who helps a woman obtain one, took effect last month. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the law.

“We always knew that the Supreme Court would be a backstop on women’s rights issues: Roe v. Wade. That is gone. It’s over,” said McAuliffe. “Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is going to overrule the basic tenants of Roe v. Wade.”

McAuliffe added the Supreme Court “is going to allow these states to roll back women’s reproductive rights, so that’s no longer a talking point.”

“This is reality,” said McAuliffe. “Every woman in Virginia needs to understand it.”

Terry McAuliffe has said Glenn Youngkin poses a threat to abortion rights in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Youngkin, for his part, has said he would not have signed the Texas law.

Trump on Oct. 13 described Youngkin as a “great gentleman” when he called into the “Take Back Virginia Rally” in Henrico County that John Fredericks, host of “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, organized.

Participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was present at the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Youngkin in a statement his campaign released said he “had no role” in the event and said it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6.”

“As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” he said.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin would make Virginia “a dangerous place to live and work.”

“His governorship, if he were to be elected, would roll back individual liberties,” said McAuliffe. “He doesn’t support gay marriage, he is for eliminating abortion here in the commonwealth of Virginia and he will drive businesses out of our state and finally it is dangerous for people.”

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