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Gallaudet president reinstates chief diversity officer

University, McCaskill mum on possible terms of reinstatement

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

Angela McCaskill was placed on leave by Gallaudet University from her job as a diversity officer after it was revealed she signed an anti-gay marriage petition. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gallaudet University announced late Monday that it has reinstated its chief diversity officer, who was placed on paid administrative leave in October for signing a petition to place Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum.

“With this communication I am announcing that Dr. Angela McCaskill has returned to campus to resume her full-time duties and responsibilities as Chief Diversity Officer,” Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz said in an email sent to students, faculty, and staff members.

Hurwitz made the decision to place McCaskill on leave after news surfaced on campus in early October that she signed the petition circulated by same-sex marriage opponents seeking to overturn the marriage equality law passed earlier in the year by the Maryland General Assembly.

Anti-gay groups opposing the marriage law immediately denounced Hurwitz’s action, saying it confirmed their predictions that the law would lead to intolerance toward people of faith who oppose gay marriage. The opponents noted that McCaskill, a Maryland resident, signed the petition at her church.

In a news conference in Annapolis one week after what supporters called the suspension from her job, McCaskill said the action violated her right as a citizen to petition the government to give voters the opportunity to decide on a controversial issue. She declined to say whether she would vote for or against the marriage equality law in the November election.

Marriage equality supporters, including Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, joined opponents in calling on Gallaudet to reinstate McCaskill, saying they, too, believe she shouldn’t be penalized for expressing her personal views on the matter.

Voters upheld the law in a close vote, making Maryland along with two other states – Maine and Washington – the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Same-sex marriages began in Maryland shortly after midnight on New Years Day.

In his email message on Monday, Hurwitz didn’t say whether the reinstatement was based on any conditions. At the time he placed McCaskill on leave, Hurwitz hinted that he was sympathetic to concerns raised by gay and lesbian students on campus that it was inappropriate for the campus diversity officer to push for a ballot measure seeking to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry.

At her news conference in Annapolis, McCaskill startled some gay activists when she identified two out lesbian faculty members at Gallaudet whom she said persuaded Hurwitz take action against her for signing the ballot petition.

When reached by the Blade, faculty members Martina “MJ” Bienvenu and Kendra Smith declined to comment, saying they preferred that the matter be a “discussion” between the university and McCaskill.

“During the past three months a large number of you have taken the initiative to communicate with me,” Hurwitz said in his email. “This has been a period of reflection for all of us. I am deeply appreciative of the time you have taken to communicate your views, of the clearly heartfelt manner in which you have expressed those thoughts, and of the overall maturity you have shown in your willingness to consider the differing views others may hold.”

He added, “The work of the University’s Office of diversity and Inclusion is vital and must continue in an active and vibrant way. I personally look forward to working with Dr. McCaskill on the work of that office.”

McCaskill’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. At the Annapolis news conference, Gordon said the university’s action “tarnished” McCaskill’s reputation. He said that on her behalf, he had asked the university to compensate McCaskill for damages, in addition to reinstating her, and hinted that she would consider filing a lawsuit over the matter.

University spokesperson Kaitlin Luna, who provided the Blade with a copy of Hurwitz’s email statement, said the university would have no further comment.

“As for the other questions, they are legal matters, which the university cannot speak to,” she said.

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Comings & Goings

Lane named senior counsel at Brady United

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Thomas Patrick Lane

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations to Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March

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Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)

 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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