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Gallaudet diversity officer blasts school for suspension

Lesbian faculty members named as instigators for placing McCaskill on leave

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Angela McCaskill, Maryland marriage petition, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Gallaudet University, Washington Blade, gay news
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.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Gina Alberti

    October 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    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.

    • Nina M. Yaste Moore

      October 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      It's a shame!

    • Gina Alberti

      October 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      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.

      • ridor9th

        October 17, 2012 at 12:49 am

        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.

        • Gina

          October 20, 2012 at 2:33 am

          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.

  2. Mike W

    October 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    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.

  3. Willie Braxton

    October 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    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?

  4. Matt Kleid

    October 17, 2012 at 4:36 am

    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.

  5. Ricky Taylor

    October 17, 2012 at 4:48 am

    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.

    • Stephon Williams

      October 17, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Not too late for that! give her a BREAK! LET HER DO HER JOB! I MADE A FINAL DECIDE I SUPPORT HER!

    • Ricky Taylor

      October 17, 2012 at 5:28 am

      I think we need to put the slavery question on referendum and let people decide if you should be free or go back to slavery. How do you like it? Same idea … stupid.

      R-

    • Ricky Taylor

      October 17, 2012 at 5:29 am

      Stephon Williams Do you have any idea who Tony Perkins is? Once she thanked Tony, her credibility is finished. Just like you.

      R-

    • Stephon Williams

      October 17, 2012 at 5:33 am

      Look! I do not like the idea how she do it but she is right cuz it is her personal decide and she did very good job by hard work to raise her five kids and to be sure the kids with a good educated! Don't cheap ME!

      • ridor9th

        October 17, 2012 at 1:40 am

        WTF? It is not about raising her 5 kids. It is about her job, Chief Diversity Officer, she failed at it miserably … stupid.

    • Ricky Taylor

      October 17, 2012 at 5:40 am

      It has nothing to do with her raising 5 kids. It has so much to do with her idiocy. Come to think of this, you fit in that image as well.

    • Stephon Williams

      October 17, 2012 at 5:50 am

      I am not sure which toe you are stepping on. Are you trying to put me in the same page with her? You knew I am NOT like her! I SUPPORT GAY MARRGAIE!! I did not sign any petition that prevents from Gay couple to get married! You put yourself in that image as well for since you try to shape me up!

    • Stephon Williams

      October 17, 2012 at 5:50 am

      I am DONE!

    • Ricky Taylor

      October 17, 2012 at 6:18 am

      You're just supporting her because she's black. Grow some balls.

      R-

    • Stephon Williams

      October 17, 2012 at 7:19 am

      The reason why I removed my comment, after I watched your vlog and it impact me to think twice and picture myself if I find a true love and struggle to …I just can't afford that so I take it back. You are on your own Angela McCaskill.

    • Wiley McMasters

      October 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      WOW! Ricky, did you really just compare this issue to slavery? You might want to go use that argument with some black people and let me know how it turns out for you. Amazing. It's hyperbole like this that makes me unsympathetic to your plight.

  6. Ricky Taylor

    October 17, 2012 at 5:23 am

    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-

    • JCF

      October 17, 2012 at 4:41 am

      Outstanding suggestion! (And “if the shoe fits…”)

  7. Chris Neufeld

    October 17, 2012 at 5:41 am

    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!

  8. Mark NOVA

    October 17, 2012 at 7:54 am

    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.

  9. Diogenes in MD

    October 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

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

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote

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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

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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

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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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