Gallaudet University Diversity Officer Suspended for Signing Marriage Referendum Petition (Updated)

A commentary

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2012

Dr. Angela McCaskill, is a 23-year employee of Gallaudet University, serving as its chief diversity officer. She is also the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at the Washington, D.C. university for deaf and hard of hearing students. A blog, Planet DeafQueer, reports that an unnamed Gallaudet faculty member discovered that last July, McCaskill signed a petition to place a referendum on the Maryland ballot asking voters whether they wanted to overturn a law providing marriage equality that was passed by the state legislature:

A Gallaudet faculty member, who at this time wishes to remain anonymous, noticed Dr. McCaskill’s name, address and signature on the anti-gay marriage petition and inquired about it. When confronted by the faculty member, 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. As she was leaving, her husband pointed to the petition and she signed it without giving it further thought.

An official complaint was filed with the University last week by the mentioned faculty member and a meeting was held on Friday with Gallaudet University President, Dr. Alan Hurwitz.

Today, Dr. Hurwitz announced that he was placing McCaskilll on paid administrative leave effective immediately. Dr. Hurwitz took this action despite a Gallaudet spokesperson acknowledging that “We don’t have a policy against political participation.” According to Planet DeafQueer, McCaskill was an “ardent supporter” of Gallaudet’s LGBTQA Resource Center, leaving many LGBT students and faculty feeling “shock, disappointment, anger and betrayal” about her signing the petition.

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed reports that D.C. law may add a complicating wrinkle for McCaskill’s suspension:

Under the D.C. Code, it is a criminal violation for “[a]ny person who … by threats or intimidation, interferes with, or attempts to interfere with, the right of any qualified registered elector to sign or not to sign any initiative, referendum, or recall petition.” The sentence for violating the provision can be up to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison.

…Because a Maryland law — and not a D.C. law — is at issue in the referendum, however, the D.C. Code’s criminal provision is not directly implicated. But, it could indirectly apply to McCaskill’s suspension through a civil lawsuit in which she seeks money or reinstatement.

Let’s remember what she did: she signed a petition. She didn’t write an op-ed or a letter to the editor demanding that gay couples not be allowed to marry. She didn’t stand on a street corner with a bullhorn, distribute anti-gay literature on campus or off, or even put a “No On 6” bumper sticker on her car. We don’t even know if she supports Question 6 or not. She signed a petition asking that an issue be placed on the ballot for a vote. And yes, signing that petition is a public act. Her signature is on a public document which is why it is part of the public record. But it’s only as public as it takes for someone to go through the effort of searching through 110,000 other names and addresses to find hers.

And here’s the point: Gallaudet doesn’t have a policy barring its staff from signing petitions. Some organizations do; journalists, for example, are usually barred by their employers from activities which can tie their names to candidates or causes. But because Gallaudet doesn’t have such a policy, McCaskill wasn’t suspended for signing a petition. She was suspended for signing this petition. We would jump up and down in fury if someone were fired for signing a petition supporting a pro-gay initiative. I don’t see this case as being any different, especially since, so far, I haven’t seen so much as a hint that her job performance has been in any way diminished before or since signing the petition.

Gallaudet students and faculty have a right to ask McCaskill some very hard questions. McCaskill owes them, as their Diversity Officer, honest answers and probably an apology, depending on her explanations. What she did deserves scrutiny. But an undeniable and fundamental feature of anything resembling diversity, it seems to me, must include dialogue and conversation, especially when these situations arise in an academic setting and especially in McCaskill’s case where she has established a strong track record in supporting the campus’s LGBT population. Hurwitz’s rash action has clumsily blocked all of that.

There was a time and there were places where people routinely lost their jobs (and sometime far worse) for exercising their rights to participate in a democracy as full citizens. Forty-eight years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you’d think we would be past this by now, but obviously we’re not.

McCaskill is reportedly consulting a lawyer. I hope that Gallaudet and McCaskill can resolve this without resorting to the courts. But if they can’t, then I hope that the lawyer she found is an especially mean one.

Update: In an unusually rare convergence, campaign managers on both sides of Question 6 have issued statements opposing McCaskill’s suspension.


October 11th, 2012

She showed incredibly poor judgement and deserves to be fired. If she was a teacher, an admin, or in some other position – I would hold a completely different opinion and would support her.

Lets look at this another way. If the CFO on my corporation signed a public petition or supported legislation that would increase regulation on our corporation – that person would be fired (and I’ve seen this happen). When you are in certain positions – you accept that some of your free speech rights are somewhat more limited. That’s the price you pay to be in that position.


October 11th, 2012

Mr. Burroway, I agree completely with your assessment. Signing a petition is an enumerated, protected First Amendment right — “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Dr. McCaskill exercised her right to sign a legal petition — that is all. Signing a petition to place an item on the ballot is not an indication of how one will vote.

I also feel the faculty member “who wishes to remain anonymous” is a coward. Stand behind your accusation or don’t make it!

However, maybe it’s time for a court case that does determine if your employer can take action against you for exercising your First Amendment rights outside your place of employment.


October 11th, 2012

I have been pondering this matter since I first read about it yesterday, and I opened BTB this morning hoping to see a discussion of it. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Jim; it articulates my thinking very well.


October 11th, 2012

By signing this petition didn’t the Chief Diversity Officer for a large school targeting a minority group basically say that she considers it perfectly acceptable to consider some minority groups in the population to be less than full citizens? She deserves to be fired, she considers 1 in 10 of the students she supports to be second class citizens unworthy of full and equal treatment under the law. Exercise of one’s first amendment rights to free speech doesn’t mean that one is free of the consequences of that speech.


October 11th, 2012

The problem isn’t that she signed a petition. The problem is that a DIVERSITY officer signed a petition that purports to shut down diversity.

It’s as if a leading health official in the administration signed a petition to bring sodas and Cheetos into the high school menu.

What the hell are you doing in a “Diversity Officer” position if by “diversity” you only mean “uplifting my own, but treading upon others”?

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

I’m with Lucrece. This is no different than a priest getting fired because he announced he’s an atheist.


October 11th, 2012

She’s in charge of DIVERSITY and she signed a petition opposing our rights. Would anyone be pretending she was still qualified to be in charge of diversity if she’d signed a petition opposing the rights of Jews, Muslims, the handicapped, interracial couples, Asians, Libertarians or any other group?

That’s the simple test I always use for these stories. I just imagine the exact same situation but with some other group and try to picture people reacting the same way. Maybe it’s just a lack of imagination, but in my mental picture theirs unanimous agreement that a university employee who signed their name to a petition opposing the rights of… oh… let’s say Hindus, would be thrown out for shaming the institution with their bigotry.


October 11th, 2012

@Jim – can you provide a working link to the source for your update? I assume the source is the Washington Blade article which gives a fairly detailed account.

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2012


I’ve fixed the link. It does reference the Blade article.


October 11th, 2012

Lucrece has a point in that her actions are at odds with her job… kind of.

but here’s the thing: at work she’s been an ardent supporter of the gay community.

so really, this falls back into the “how deeply into your personal life does your employer have a right to reach”?

based on my reading, she’s done her job as a diversity leader admirably – including supporting the gay campus group. i have a problem with policing her away from her job. especially if, based on her own telling of the story, she wasn’t really paying suitable attention to what she was signing because she was at her church.

perhaps we should fire her because she’s not sufficiently diverse in her bedroom? can she really be tolerant unless she’s bisexual – doesn’t that make her gender biased? does her membership in a church that preaches against gay marriage not warrant her dismissal? shouldn’t we required her to loudly and publicly denounce her preacher and walk out? perhaps we should follow her into the voting booth, and make sure she votes the right way?

we have a constitutional right to petition our government (yup, it’s in there). if i were i her shoes, i’d be hurt and livid. this is an overreaction, and it plays squarely into the hands of our foes.


October 11th, 2012

Thank you, Jim, for this thoughtful post. I agree with you.

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

Andrew said “perhaps we should fire her because she’s not sufficiently diverse in her bedroom? can she really be tolerant unless she’s bisexual – doesn’t that make her gender biased?”.

No, because sexuality isn’t a choice, she can’t help who she is. But signing the anti-gay petition was a choice in conflict of interest with the job she was hired to do so firing her was the only option.

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

And that she belongs to an anti-gay church is just further evidence she should have been fired.


October 11th, 2012

Jim, I agree with your overall sentiment, and I think a reprimand is in order–not a firing or suspension. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was just not paying attention or was just trying to get out of church–her HUSBAND should be spending a few nights on the couch ;)

I do think she deserves the opportunity to address the Gallaudet community and hope she’ll offer a sincere apology.


October 11th, 2012

And that she belongs to an anti-gay church is just further evidence she should have been fired.

A question for the inevitable people whining about this statement:

If a university faculty member attends a Christian Identity church, one that preaches that all non-whites are sinners, would a university be justified in firing them when they found out? Does religious freedom require keeping on an employee who’s religion is disgustingly bigoted and having the entire institution shamed by their presence?

Because as far as I’m concerned that’s the situation here.


October 11th, 2012

Jim: “Gallaudet students and faculty have a right to ask McCaskill some very hard questions. McCaskill owes them, as their Diversity Officer, honest answers and probably an apology, depending on her explanations.”

Dr. McCaskill doesn’t owe them anything, let alone submitting to an inquisition because she may hold unapproved opinions. She signed this petition as a private citizen and frankly while I can guess at her views on this issue signing it doesn’t necessarily mean she opposed same-sex marriage. She could just believe it’s a matter that should be voted on. Ironically I’d like to see Dr. McCaskill at least reassigned because I disagree with the position she holds but not because of this. This is a free speech issue IMO and I hope she wins a very big lawsuit against Gallaudet.

Priya: “And that she belongs to an anti-gay church is just further evidence she should have been fired.”

Are you sure you really want to go down that road? Unbelievable. So what, all Catholics should be fired? All Mormons? Muslims? Orthodox Jews? Just how far would you like to take this while eviscerating the First Amendment in the process?


October 11th, 2012

Another interesting thought I just had on the issue:

What if a university discovered that the head of their biology department is a creationist? That’s a religious belief and it’s perfectly possible for someone o be completely competent at their job while believing it, but do you really think the university wouldn’t be justified in replacing him with someone who wouldn’t be an embarrasement?

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

Sami said “If a university faculty member attends a Christian Identity church, one that preaches that all non-whites are sinners, would a university be justified in firing them when they found out?”.


John asked “Are you sure you really want to go down that road? Unbelievable. So what, all Catholics should be fired? All Mormons? Muslims? Orthodox Jews?”.

John, did I stutter? Yes, I’m sure I want to go down that road. All of them should be fired from the job of diversity officer if they belong to an anti-gay church.

John asked “Just how far would you like to take this while eviscerating the First Amendment in the process?”.

Its no different than a priest being fired because he announces he’s an atheist, or mormon, or muslim, or jew.

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

Sami, its perfectly possible for a muslim to be completely competent at the job of preaching Catholicism but no one would be surprised if a church fired him because his beliefs were in conflict with the church’s.


October 11th, 2012

I’ve got no problem with a university having bigoted accountants and janitors and other jobs that don’t actually involve the students.

However I think if I their job requires interacting with students on a regular basis I think it’s perfectly reasonable to fire them when you discover that they consider some of those students to be inferior, it being their religious belief is irrelevant.


October 11th, 2012

Priya Lynn,

A university biology teacher who believes in creationism should only be fired if he does not the scientific standards as outlined by his University. His personal views, if he keeps them to himself, are not worthy of firing. Only his actions and performance as a teacher are standards on which he should be fired.

The comparrison to priests getting fired is just ridiculous. OBVIOUSLY a priest shouldn’t be a preiest if he doesn’t believe in the tenants of his own so called religion.

Until this school implents a policy forbidding certain positions from political activity, this woman broke no rules. If her actions at the school fulfill her responsibility to the students and the faculty, she deserves to remain in her job. IF and ONLY if her personal beliefs marred her ability to do her job fairly should she be let go.

Your arguments contrary to this belief are equal to saying they should be allowed to fire gay teachers at universities that are religous in nature, like Notre Dame or the like. If you open it in one direction, you open it in every direction. Your utilization of your legal freed speech rights should never be used to take away your job, as long as you are doing your job. And by all accounts, she was.

It’s a slippery slope, and you seem to have slide down the hill a bit.


October 11th, 2012

I work very closely with our campus diversity and equity officer, as I am on the faculty diversity and equity committee. My comments assume, perhaps incorrectly, that her position is similar to the one on my campus.

There is simply no way on earth Dr McCaskill can effectively do her job if she thinks the rights of a minority should be voted on because her job includes advocating for their equity in treatment on campus and in society. From this point on anything she does on behalf of the lgbt community will be interpreted with a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, don’t really listen to what I say because I’m one of you” by the anti-gay students, staff, faculty and administrators.

She has simply betrayed one of the main groups she is there to help. I fail to see how she can effectively advocate for lgbt equity on campus when she thinks lgbt rights should be voted on.

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

Robert, obviously a biology teacher shouldn’t be a biology teacher if he doesn’t believe in science. What’s sauce for the church is sauce for the university.

And I believe they do fire gay teachers at anti-gay universities:

Priya Lynn

October 11th, 2012

Let me clarify it a bit more for you Robert. It gets back to Andrew’s suggestion that “perhaps we should fire her because she’s not sufficiently diverse in her bedroom? can she really be tolerant unless she’s bisexual – doesn’t that make her gender biased?”.

Once again, sexual orientation isn’t a choice or a belief, its an immutable feature of a person. So, if an anti-gay university fired someone merely for being gay that would be wrong, but if they hired a gay person specifically to oppose equality and that gay person was found to have signed a petition in favour of marriage equality they’d be within their rights to fire him as his beliefs are in conflict with the job he was hired to do. Just because one is gay does not mean one cannot have and fully support anti-gay beliefs and do an anti-gay job as we’ve seen time and time again.


October 11th, 2012

Ugh, I’m of two minds on this. On the one, I find it incomprehensible that a “diversity officer” would be anti-gay marriage. (And Jim’s claims that “we don’t know” if she’s anti gay marriage strike me as ludicrous). On the other *this exact fucking thing* is going to be used by the right wing, and will probably make us lose Maryland in November. Damn it, Gallaudet! Nose, face, spite, etc. Obviously, the university is not the government, so there’s no first amendment issue here. But there also have apparently been no complaints about her job performance, and she isn’t trumpeting her anti-gay views to gay students , so fucking let it slide. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. Already this has probably cost us Maryland. Let’s at least salvage Washington and Maine.


October 11th, 2012

She signed the petition to put the measure on the ballot, that doesn’t suggest how she would vote on the measure in the privacy of the voting booth. This IS America people!! Don’t stomp on people’s rights just because you disagree with them!


October 11th, 2012

She broke no rule by signing the petition, and if that is the allegation, she should not have been fired.

But when she signed the petition, she raised questions about her dedication to her profession, and her understanding of it: Is the field of human rights her calling, or is it merely a mealticket?

Does she understand the all-or-nothing aspects of diversity advocacy, or does she make exceptions?

Is she actually qualified to hold her job, or is something missing?

Gallaudet and its students have a right now to ask those questions, and to have answers that fit their views, not hers.

There are plenty of people in the human rights field for whom the work is just a paycheck, and not much else.

I’m reminded of the Roloff dwarfs from the reality show Little People, Big World. The couple sell themselves as “diversity” speakers and advocates, and charge more than $6000 per appearance. The amassed income is apparently significant.

Yet, in real life, they are right-wing, fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant Republicans who return home from speaking engagements to host fund-raisers for Oregon’s most right-wing politicians.

This sort of charade matters (to me) because I believe that it cheapens and demeans the whole field; given a choice, I would not hire a person I thought to be engaged in it.

Thus I think the question reduces to this: Does Gallaudet want a person whose adherence to the principles of her job/profession may stop at the office door, or do they want a diversity officer who understands the broadness of the field, and to whom the field is a calling?


October 11th, 2012

Look, Priya, you can be a member of an anti-gay church, you can have anti-gay beliefs, and you can still serve gays in the context of the job in question to the maximum.

I know it sounds contradictory & impossible, but it’s not.

She can be a professional. To assume that she’s not based solely on the placement of her signature flies in the face of free expression.

Remember too that in the USA, at least, religious affiliation IS a protected class even though it is not an immutable characteristic. So rules that apply to religions are a bit different than rules that apply to professionals.

A biology teacher can be a good, professional, biology teacher and hold personal beliefs that contradict what he teaches. My father was one. My high-school biology teacher another.

It doesn’t sound plausible, but it is.

The last thing our movement should do, in America at least, is to encourage the idea that one cannot be a professional due to one’s personal beliefs.

I agree with the commentary by Jim (although I don’t think she should have to apologize for her beliefs if she can indicate how she works within her mind to keep her beliefs from coloring her work). I agree with the actions of spokespeople of the pro-gay marriage group in Maryland. By all accounts that I’ve seen she was performing her job professionally and thus was an advocate for gay rights, despite her personal beliefs on the subject.

Perhaps it is because she loves Liberty along with her God & understands that her own Liberty to believe what she wants to believe is strengthened when she fights for the equality of a marginalized group. Perhaps she takes to heart the words of MLK: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

But to assume you know exactly what’s going on inside her head, ie what her priorities are, because her name is on a piece of paper is naive and foolish.


October 11th, 2012

The comparison to the creationist science teacher is an interesting one. Let me use myself as an example. I am a creationist; I believe that the universe and everything in it was created by God. PL would see my fired from my position as a post-doc in a genetics research lab based on this information.

The problem here is obvious to anyone reading between my lines. I did not express how I believe the universe was created through the power of God. Truth be told, I believe the scientific explanations of the big bang, and the resulting forces that shaped solar systems and planets, including the evolutionary forces that form and shape life on this planet (and presumably others). Now some might argue that I no longer qualify as a creationist. I guess it depends on which box I check.

My point is this. The church I go to has very little to do with how I do my job or how I would teach others about science and biology. Should my superiors discover my faith background (not that I keep it secret), they would be right to question my opinions to ensure this would not interfere with my work, but they couldn’t fire me for it. So to, if Dr. McCaskill can do her job of promoting diversity and equality on campus (I doubt the commenter who posited that her job includes community advocacy is correct; her work is likely only limited to the University environment), regardless of her church, then she should not be fired, though an investigation (hence the paid leave) and serious questions are not out of order. Unfortunately, I do think this will negatively impact how students and faculty view her, since LGBT and allied individuals would question there ability to trust her, which my ultimately impact her ability to do her job.

Also, PL, simply because ‘they’ do it to ‘us’ does not mean ‘we’ should be doing it to ‘them’. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say.


October 11th, 2012

This is getting a bit ridiculous IMHO…

As several have stated, if there is no explicit University rule she violated, she is mostly guilty of (very) poor judgement. She does not appear to hold anti-gay animus, either explicitly or implicitly. Her husband possibly holds these views or at least is a twit.

Also–and this is not an excuse but maybe a possible explanation–do we really know anything about her specific church and their interpretation for the hearing impaired? Is it at all possible that the full extent of the pastor’s preaching and/or a full description of what the petition meant was missing and/or botched?

The fact that the University did this on its own reduces (but doesn’t remove) the inevitable “Gays attack free-speech rights!!!” and ” See? Our donors HAVE to remain anonymous!” NOM shrieks. Especially since the official MD for Marriage statement defended her rights.

I will state again, that I’d be happy with a sincere apology that includes a recognition that her actions harmed the community, those under her purview, and the integrity of her office.

If we’re going to start demanding heads, I can certainly think of more worthy “donors.”


October 11th, 2012

what if she signed the petition so she could ultimately vote in favor of gay marriage? The petition is just a petition to put something up to a vote, it’s not the vote itself.


October 11th, 2012

I’m not sure I want to get into this, but here’s my take: We don’t know McCaskill’s feelings about same-sex marriage. We know she’s been a strong supporter of our community, and by her own admission, she signed the petition at her husband’s behest without really thinking about it.

I think the university is overreaching by suspending her, but I do think she owes the university, and especially the students, a clear explanation of where she stands, given her position as diversity officer. (Although from the reports I’ve read, she has discharged her responsibilities faithfully.)

As for the anonymous tipster, he/she should have the balls to drop the anonymity — there is, after all, the possibility of ulterior motives there, which we are not going to be able to evaluate without knowing who this person is.

In essence, I agree with Jim’s take, but it seems to me a lot of the comments here take off from assumptions about what we know, and not what we actually know.

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2012

Hey everyone.

I just want to duck in here with a quick administrative comment. Three of the comments on this thread have gone into moderation for some reason. I’ve approved them as soon as I learn of them.

Our anti-spam software flags close to 700 comments per day as spam. That’s about one every two minutes. Without that software in place, our comments section would be useless. The spam software is mostly accurate, but only mostly.

If you get a message saying your comment was flagged for moderation, then WordPress will, at the same time, send me an email asking me to review the comment. You can try emailing me yourself, but I will probably find the email from WordPress first. When I do, I will approve your comment (assuming, of course, that it doesn’t violate our comments policy, but that is pretty rare.)

But if your comment disappears without any trace or message about moderation, then that probably means that it went straight into the spam jail without passing Go. When that happens, I won’t get an email (thank God, because as I said, I’d be getting about 700 more emails a day). So if this happens to you, please email me and I’ll try to retrieve it. But unfortunately it’s not always possible to do so.

Thanks for your patience and I apologize for the inconvenience.

And now back to your regular programming…


October 11th, 2012

@Désirée and others weirdly pretending that we don’t know McCaskill’s position on gay marriage: The petition’s goal is to repeal the marriage equality law already passed in Maryland’s legislature.


October 11th, 2012

but we don’t know her position. All we know is she thinks it should be voted on (which is bad enough by itself), but I can envision a scenario whereby she wants a vote in order for it to lose at the polls thus proving the people support gay marriage. Sure, it’s not a likely scenario but it’s possible. I know that for a long time my personal position was to sign all petitions whether I agreed or not under the premise that the people should get to have a say on any and all aspects of government (I was young & naive)


October 11th, 2012

I think you’re arguing in bad faith, Désirée.


October 11th, 2012

Sure we know her position on gay marriage — that the rights of a minority should be up for a popular vote, limited by the whims of the majority. Had she signed a petition calling for the restriction of marriage rights for deaf people everyone here would be proclaiming that Gallaudet did the correct thing in kicking this woman to the curb. Why is it that someone who is otherwise supposed to be at the very least supportive of her colleagues and students, if not an actual advocate (I imagine that a task of the CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER for an organization is to advocate internally and externally to an extent for inclusion and equal treatment of minority groups, you know to increase the DIVERSITY of the organization) gets a free pass when signing off on a petition advocating second class treatment of her colleagues and students when it affects the LGBT community? Particularly FROM members of the LGBT community? Talk about internalized homophobia.


October 11th, 2012

Priya: “John, did I stutter? Yes, I’m sure I want to go down that road. All of them should be fired from the job of diversity officer if they belong to an anti-gay church.”

Well then there’s really nothing else to talk about then because I find your worldview to be completely anathema to civil liberty. If this swipe of yours against the First Amendment, and embrace of McCarthyism, gained steam I’m afraid I’d have to join with whomever I had to – including anti-gay opponents like Tony Perkins – to stop you from such an assault on civil liberties. I do not want to live in Perkins’ America anymore than I want to live in yours. Both are dismal nightmares IMO.


October 11th, 2012

OK.. first of all I have worked with a Creationist at McGraw-Hill in their standardized testing department – he was a manager of science tests.

His beliefs were his own, and he performed his duties to ensure that content met the standards set out and accepted within the testing community. His personal beliefs did not conflict with his ability to execute his job professionally.

Now, as to what Priya says about applying religious litmus tests to employment: you’re out of luck. In the USA, we have something called the Constitution. If you wish to establish a theocracy – which is precisely what you are advocating – then you may wish to retire to another country that allows that. Or buckle up for a life of disappointment.

As to her bedroom habits – I didn’t say her sexuality, I said her sex practices. Since we are applying different standards to her right to free speech and to petition her government (all outside the confines of her employment), then I think we have the right to all of it. She should be required to engage in non-gender-biased sexual activity, regardless of her orientation, right? Why should freedom of expression, or the right to petition our government, be any different from her right to privacy? Hell, the first two are actually codified in the Constitution. The latter is an 11th hour finding in 1972 by the Supreme Court. So, let’s fire anyone who does not engage in bisexual activity who works in diversity.

While we’re at it, are we sure that she selects partners and friends who are suitably racially and religiously diverse? Can we not judge a diversity officer by their close friends and family? Surely if a person only socializes within a circle of people just like them, we can objectively state that they are unsuitable for the job. Freedom of Association be damned.

This is purely ridiculous. The fact is, that unless one engages in criminal behavior, behavior that violates the codified standards of conduct, or behavior conducted in the name of ones employer, the employer has NOTHING to say about it. Would you want to get fired because your boss found out that you signed a petition for health care, and they decided that health care was driving up their costs, making you a direct threat to the company? Think about this folks, it has far reaching consequences.

John is 100% right – this is anathema to a society based on civil liberties. Worse, this will turn into a sound bite on every anti-gay campaign, and rightfully so. If this is where the gay community thinks the next step is, then guess what – I’m siding with the opponents. Civil liberties come first. Always. The rest flows from these.


October 11th, 2012

The one and only reason the campaign is supporting her is because they are afraid that the Christianists will turn her into a martyr. That’s all there is to it.

She can be a regular teacher or employer there. But she has absolutely no business being the diversity officer. Simply assign her somewhere else. Her casual, uncaring discrimination by signing something without checking it isn’t any better than if it had been more deliberate.


October 11th, 2012

Steve, how do you answer the question of her rights to privacy, free speech, religious expression, and association? see above.


October 11th, 2012

jim – thanks for your note about the moderation flags – it helps for folks to understand that they aren’t being censored… one of the things i love most about this site.


October 11th, 2012

You know I used to live in a right to work state, you know what that funny littler phrase means? It mean my employer could fire me for any reason period. My religion sure, my political affiliations no problem, my sexuality ditto, my gender if they wanted to. Heck they could even fire me over federally protected issues, they just had to put reasons “personal”.

Also just to play the blame game, it seems “Right to work” laws are almost universally supported by conservatives and are used heavily by religious organizations.

Also let us please stop playing this is a symptom of PC games. How many religious institution, universities and their ilk have conduct codes for employment? And they are applying these codes to things other then preachers, there was a teacher recently fired for getting pregnant while single and not feeling shame for it. But hey it was a religious university and she signed a conduct pledge so they get a pass.

Jobs of all types have had various hidden and not so hidden litmus tests and the higher up on the ladder the tighter the focus.

Also lets take a step back here, she wasn’t fired, she was given a leave. So let us stop saying she was fired. Leaves are given when the situation needs to be investigated and understood, when tempers need to cool. It’s an administrative procedure. Also this was sparked by outside intervention. When a university gets a complaint by the student body things have to be investigated and taken serious, or at least they should be. Or maybe we want more school scandals, raped students, school shootings, hate crimes on campus, or other things of that nature. Of course I don’t know where peoples hearts lie on this issue maybe they do want more stuff like that.

Meanwhile I am personally sick of the idea that speech should be consequence free. It was never meant to be that way. We say stupid hateful things, it has consequences, we do stupid hateful things it has consequences, if this wasn’t the case, the KKK would have never have wore hoods.

People should always be aware of their words and actions and when there is fall out, these people should have to stand up to it. This is the way a responsible democracy and pluralist society needs to function. (This place functions so well because we call out most if not all the broad brushes. Both for and against our pet issues.)

Honestly I live in CA, where our damn petition system is for sale and the reason is it is easier to sign the petition and get the paid shill out of your hair then it is to tell them no. Maybe when more attention is paid to these petitions and people are confronted by their signatures, will this system go back to functioning properly.

As to this one person and their tragic tail, maybe in the future they and hopefully others who read this story will think about the stands they take and what they really say to others, I can only see this as a good thing.

The number one problem in today’s america is everyone wants to be shielded from the consequences of their speech and belief. Organizations like NART, FRC, FotF all run rampant with made up facts and people quote them shielded by their wall of faith killing all hope for an honest dialog all the while we (moderates of faith, LGBTs, politicians, random diversity chairs who sign petitions) suffer for it. Well maybe it’s time we no longer ask or expect to be shielded from the negative effects of our speech and belief, because this is the only way to a honest dialog and a healthy society.


October 11th, 2012

Kithpine, California is indeed a right to work state — and it is definitely actionable to fire someone for the reasons you cite. Yes, it’s up to you to prove it. A termination like that has to be documented up and down the wazoo and that requires the tacit acceptance of every level of management. It’s fairly hard to pull off.

I guess the question no one seems willing to answer is where it ends?

What about her membership in this church? Why isn’t that sufficient? What about her personal practices, her private life, her associations and family? Why isn’t her political party fair game? Once you allow employers to drag in issues not covered under documented standards of conduct (there goes your single mom pregnancy – moral turpitude clauses are commonplace in certain fields), and which directly conflict with rights cited Constitutionally, you enter into very dangerous territory.

E. Manhattan

October 11th, 2012

It’s clear that Ms McCaskill would be very comfortable living in a state where she and her husband live by one set of laws which protect their rights, while her gay and lesbian students are forced to live by a different, harsher set of laws that restrict their rights.

Why else would she want to put a repeal of the marriage equality law on the ballot?

This has nothing to do with religious freedom. It has everything to do with her taking a public action which attacked the well being of her students.


October 12th, 2012

The answer to the question of “Where does it end?”

It ends when people step up and take responsibility for their speech, their actions, when they stop saying “First amendment, I get to keep my job no matter how bad a fit it is!”

The problem is so many people want a free pass, that minor problems get major attention. People say things like

“I want to work as a grocery cashier but my religion doesn’t let me handle meat so the store needs to put a second at my register to touch the meat.”

“I want to work as a cab driver but can’t give rides to scantly clad women, dogs or people with booze, so the cab company has to make reasonable accommodation and let me only pick up only who I want to and in the best parts of the job, like the airport and hotels.”

“I want to work as a public social worker but I want to tell gays they are icky go talk to someone else.”

“I want to work as a pharmacist but I don’t want to pass out drugs I don’t like.”

“I want to work in a catholic school but I want to be a practicing athisist free to tell students god is make believe.”

“I want to work on a diversity council but I want to sign this here paper against diversity.”

It stops when this nonsense stops, protecting peoples rights to employment is about protecting people who can emotionally and physically do the job, not about protecting people who philosophically won’t or can’t do the job.

It stops when people look at their chosen carrier and their chosen life style and there personal philosophies and pick their jobs, based on that. Of course the coin works in the other direction also, employers have to accept the limitations of restricting their potential employee pools, if a catholic school realizes there are not a enough catholic to teach their classes they shouldn’t be able to higher non-catholic’s and force them to convert.

Like I said this is about people stepping up and accepting their actions and their carrier choices and recognizing and taking steps when those should collide.

This case may be an outlier, one where we can see that both sides have a point, but this happens because of all the above examples, the fact that people don’t stop and think about what they do and why, or worse feel like they shouldn’t have to and that their obliviousness should be protected.

She was NOT fired, she is on PAID leave while the school sorts out the issue to see if there is a problem. When she is fired come back with the outrage. Right now the school is doing what they feel is right taking time to analyze the actions and possible conflicts, while removing the person to prevent further conflicts. A paid leave lets the situation be discussed and it gives all time to cool off. I think we’d do far better if more jobs employers took the PAID LEAVE route while investigating situations like this, instead of insisting the problem doesn’t exist, worrying about the bad press or just pulling the trigger and fire them at the first problem.

Am I the only one who finds that it is pretty bad for all these people to come out on this issue acting like a slap on the wrist (paid leave) is a beheading (termination with animus.)

*To clarify, CA is not a right to work state, I live in CA now, I used to live in Nevada which is a Right to Work state.

Now An Agnostic

October 12th, 2012

Is this the university where a gay, deaf student was killed some years ago? Beaten to death if I remember correctly.

Mark F.

October 12th, 2012


Maybe she wanted to get it on the ballot so she could vote against it. Or maybe she just wanted to help the signature gatherers earn a living. I’ve signed petitions to get things on the ballot for both reasons.


October 12th, 2012

@Ryan – why would assume bad faith on my part? I stated my personal views. I don’t really think she signed the petition in order to vote against it to make a point, but my point is that she *could* have. Lit’s of First Amendment talk flying around here, but I’d like to mention another bedrock principle in America: Innocent Until Proven Guilty. I’m simply not going to convict her of anything yet until all the facts are known, and even then *signing a petition* in and of itself is simply not all that meaningful here. Sure it would be better for us if the petition drive fails but then the real problem is the idea that rights can be voted on at all. She signed a petition, she didn’t mug a gay guy.


October 12th, 2012

Well, except it’s not the “I work as a cashier but I don’t want to handle the meat” — BECAUSE SHE HAS BEEN GAY-SUPPORTIVE AT WORK.

It’s “I’ll handle the meat at work, but I’m going to advocate for vegetarianism at home”.

Question – should vegetarians who make no complaint at work about handling meat and do their job effectively, be barred from working in grocery stores that sell meat if they belong to pro-vegetarian or pro-animal-right groups?

It’s not nearly as cut and dry as you pretend.


October 12th, 2012

Just stop it with the inane, childish free speech BS. She isn’t employed by the government and the first amendment only applies to government interference. Private employers can restrict free speech to some extent.

She was also acting as a legislator when she signed that petition. Disclosure laws exist for a reason and have been upheld in courts repeatedly. She had no expectation of privacy when she engaged in politics like that.


October 12th, 2012

I find it appalling that a diversity counselor would be all supportive and starry eyed around gay students, then after school run them over with a bus. This is a no brainer, she is in the wrong job and is a hypocritical two faced sneak.

She knew exactly what she was doing when she signed the petition because her preacher told her to. Erotically she signed it because she did. None held a gun to her head. She’s a typical robot. But we don’t need religious robots with corrupted data posing as diverse, when they are not.

I agree with removing her from that position, and affording her another position and let her choose to stay or leave. This would assist in preserving her free speech rights and prevent major political fallout. But a two headed monster betraying her job title and her students staying in that position? That’s a bit like working at an ice cream factory then turning off all the electricity before you clock out.


October 12th, 2012

It’s not nearly as cut and dry as you pretend.

Gee maybe that is why she wasn’t fired outright even though people who work directly with and under her sphere of influence feel wronged, but instead put on PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE while people have time to cool down, consider the legal ramifications and possible conflict of interests. Even if you want to say otherwise, this has created a conflict of interest and that is an offence that can get a person transferred, demoted, re-assigned or yes dare we think it fired.

Actions have consequences, even legal actions constitutionally protected ones, and a person should always be mindful of those consequences.

We as a society have been far too generous when it comes to faith and political action. The only privacy granted the political realm is voting, the only immunity from prying eyes for the stands you take is the voting booth. Everything else, donating money, signing petitions, writing your congressmen, is a matter of public record and it is so for a very good reason, so that your community, your employers, your neighbors, know where you are willing to make a stand and what you are willing to stand up for and so you are mindful of your own actions, words and deeds. Otherwise democracy breaks down to two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, while all the geese abstain on the agreement they stay off the menu.


October 12th, 2012

Steve, if that were so, then there would be no equal accommodation rights.

I love how some of us aren’t paying attention, while others seem to know her intimately. For example, iDavid knows that she’s a typical robot, and apparently he was there and knows whats in her heart and mind. Others have characterized her in ways that, Kithpine is correct in saying, can only be determined by asking her (during her paid administrative leave).

But, again, no one has addressed boundaries. Because those boundaries affect US, folks.

My privacy examples cited are OURS, you guys, not hers – the SCOTUS ruling overturning sodomy laws was entirely hung around the right to privacy (go back and read the decision).

Her enumerated rights here to petition her government are under direct attack, and you’d like to subject them to scrutiny by her employer. An equivalent here would be attending the wrong church and being fired for it. Or attending a political rally and being fired for it. Or being a member of a political party and being fired. It absolutely matters.

Kith, our opponents could so easily turn things around and argue about how society has been too generous when it comes to sexuality, argue that privacy isn’t promised anywhere in the Constitution (in fact, they argue precisely that). The same protections that protect her protect us.

Only fools think that because they happen to be winning the day that the weapons they drag out can’t be turned against them on another day.

And if you think the Constitution and our civil rights are “inane”, then you’re in the wrong country, and you’re not particularly bright. That’s what we’re fighting for every day for ourselves. Your version of extremism scares the crap out of me.


October 12th, 2012

The right to privacy in the bedroom, not in the political theater, hell not even on our streets, or in our homes with the blinds open for that matter. When LGBT people are granted the rights to use tax exempt money to protest at military funerals, or are granted specific exemptions to federal compliance laws then we can make arguments about the government being far to generous when it comes to sexuality.

The issue is we cannot grant privacy in advocacy, this is not safe or sane idea for a functioning democracy. Yes it has a chilling effect, very much so, a person will have to decide where they stand, what they are willing to advocate for, figure out if their actions are worth the fall out. It slows down the petition process, but it also guarantee its transparency and legitimacy. It gives us the ability to know our neighbors. I understand the touchy feelie everyone should be free to expound on what they want to without consequence, it empowers us and makes us feel important. Though it can’t and doesn’t work every action has a consequence and when we remove those consequences in the political process we lose any capability for temperance. Unfetter democracy is dangerous and truly horrible, it’s capricious, tyrannical and hateful. It is one of the most dangerous things out there. It’s why our nation and most other long running governments formed as a republic.

We can observe this as our petition process is being abused and manipulated to tragic ends prop 8, this referendum, unfunded tax cuts, crippled state governments, all because the petition process was used to end run around the protections afforded by the republic, used as a way to avoid our representational democracy. These petitions shouldn’t be singed mindlessly or with no risk.(Honestly a part of me died when someone suggested she may have singed it just so the petitioner wouldn’t have to feel bad or could make a living.) You put your name down for a law to be voted on, you better mean it, because you are calling for action that bypasses the protections put in place by our representational democracy.

The worst scam of this generation has been the hew and cry “Let the people vote.” This removes years of protections and active processes put in place to deny the tyranny of the majority.

So while signing a petition is a constitutionally protected right, the right to do so privately was deliberately omitted, this was not an accident or over site, the reason being there has to be consequences for what we stand for or a small handful of people can prey on the apathy of the masses.

Meanwhile should to put all the political theory aside. At the end of the day, an employer must be free to transfer, demote, move or fire an employee when a genuine conflict of interests arises, otherwise no one from the client to the employees to the employer themselves is safe from abuse or worse.

Post Script: When LGBT people are granted the rights to use tax exempt money to protest at military funerals, or are granted specific exemptions to federal compliance laws then we can make arguments about the government being far to generous when it comes to sexuality.

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