January 8, 2013 at 8:17 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gallaudet president reinstates chief diversity officer
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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I don't think she should be penalized for expressing her views, but how can you be a chief DIVERSITY officer if you don't support diversity? Not really sure on that one.

  • I don't think she should be penalized for expressing her views, but how can you be a chief DIVERSITY officer if you don't support diversity? Not really sure on that one.

  • If it had been any other group targeted by that legislation, she would not have gotten her job back. Yes, things are getting better for GLBTQ people – rapidly, in some quarters. But it remains true today that gays are just about the last group it's acceptable to hate on so publicly. Particularly when that hate is dressed up in and insulated by religious finery. The fact that the population she is charged with serving is particularly accepting of GLBTQ people only makes it more stupefying and ironic to include the term "diversity" in her job title.

    The university needs to consider whether or not any GLBTQ students will ever feel comfortable interacting with her, and if she is able to faithfully execute her professional duties given her (now very public) views and her willingness to impose those views on those who do not share them.

    It's not a crime to be on the wrong side of history, but putting this woman in charge of something which she fundamentally does not support is just idiotic.

    Perhaps Gallaudet has a job fair she can attend. I'm certain there is *something* this woman is good at, but fostering inclusion and tolerance is clearly not it.

  • She is a bigot, and uses her religion as an excuse to discriminate……I quess "diversity" includes the homophobic community!

    • As gallaudet university student, I was unpleased to hear that Dr. A. McCaskill returned her old job of CDO, but I don't blame Pro-LGBT president Hurwitz's decision because he had no choice.

      In fact, She repeatedly threatened taking legal action against University Gallaudet when she viciously rejected offer for reassigning position. She talked outspoken against bullying and thanked to Hateful group NOM in media press conference.

      I find that her behavior was unacceptable. Unfortunately, Gallaudet cannot afford defense against lawsuit. :( I'm sure that majority of students will scream to her "RESIGN NOW" because she totally failed to issue public apology to Gallaudet community including LGBT.

      She is deaf and holds Phil-Degree that she wants stay as job in Gallaudet. It sounds sad! :(

  • Stinking rotted CHRISTONAZI bitches like McCaskill have NO BUSINESS being DIVERSITY officers ANYWHERE! I hope the students there make her vulgar existence a living hell until the repulsive cow quits!

  • How can a bigot like McCaskill possibly carry out her job responsibilities? It's absolutely ludicrous that she was reinstated.

  • it's amazing how the Oppressed becomes the oppressor, church and state should always be sepreated, but this woman has no since at all. talks against a certain group of people that pay taxes and every right under the LAW to be treated equal. Yet, this diversity offices is choosing to discriminate. BTW is she married………. If not, I can see why she's mad more men off the market for her… Black Women full of attitude and shit.

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