October 15th, 2012
Last week, when it first became public knowledge that Gallaudet’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, had signed the petition to invalidate the Maryland State Legislature’s vote for marriage equality, she explained her action this way:
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.
But now her story has changed. Now that she has legal counsel, she has a different reason why she signed the petition (Sun):
An attorney for Gallaudet University’s chief diversity officer who has been placed on leave for signing a petition to put Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot says she only signed it so the issue could be decided by the democratic process.
J. Wyndal Gordan, an attorney for Angela McCaskill, said Monday that McCaskill is not “anti-gay,” and he notes that she has not expressed her personal view on the matter. He says she will do that in the voting booth.
So what are we supposed to believe? Is it possible that her pastor preached a sermon about how marriage should “be decided by the democratic process”? Well, just in case someone is harboring that absurdity, here are her pastor’s words on the subject:
As her pastor, I stand to say that we as a church family and community support Dr. McCaskill and stand with her during this time. The unfair treatment of Dr. McCaskill is a warning of what is to come if same-sex marriage becomes law in Maryland. It is a clarion call for Marylanders who value religious liberties and individual rights to vote against question 6. Again, it goes without saying that she deserves her job back.
So here is how my thinking has evolved:
I do not believe that Dr. McCaskill is capable or willing to be an effective advocate for the rights of LGBT students at Gallaudet. She seems to believe that they should have their rights subjected to a vote by the public. And let’s not pretend that she thinks that the outcome should be supportive.
Dr. McCaskill insists that she is not anti-gay. However, now that she has come under scrutiny, she has rallied anti-gay activists – such as her pastor – to portray her as a victim of “cowardice and bullying” and complaining about “threats and intimidation”. Nor do people who are not anti-gay allow their champions to equate justice and affirmative action to “support for the traditional definition of marriage”.
And I’m not sure that “not anti-gay” is enough when it comes to advocacy.
In 1994 when my friend Marky died, Carole (another straight black woman) screamed at the pastor and stormed out of his funeral simply because the pastor said that Marky “repented before he died”. But in 2012, McCaskill not only sat through an anti-gay sermon but found that it gave her the inspiration to sign the petition.
The benefit of the doubt which I extended to Dr. McCaskill has evaporated under her new image as the fearful target of horrible homosexual hoards. Whatever her previous actions on the behalf of LGBT students, this response as made her appear to be their enemy.
Dr. McCaskill will be speaking tomorrow to clarify her position. And perhaps she will redeem herself and her reputation. But “I’m a victim” is not going to be the message that brings relief to Gallaudet’s student body.
And whatever her position may be, the LGBT students at Gallaudet deserve an advocate. And if Dr. McCaskill views them as cowardly intimidating bullies whose rights are subject to the whims of the majority, then she may well not be the person to serve that role.
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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