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McCaskill changes reason for signing anti-gay petition

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Comments

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Bose in St. Peter MN
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

To whatever extent McCaskill is earnest about how “she only signed it so the issue could be decided by the democratic process,” she can tell us whether the rights of deaf people to vote and raise children should have been “decided by the democratic process” in the not-so distant past when they were denied.

Andrew
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

Boy, there’s a lot of “ifs” and supposition going on here. The minister may or may not be acting on his own agenda – I’m not entirely sure Ms. McCaskill is happy to have his “help” here, and just as Obama differed from his own minister Wright without standing up and screaming at him for years until it became the centerpiece of a national election, it’s possible for others, as well. My sole point there is that it’s not entirely reasonable to use the minister’s quote as “damning evidence” unless you’re prepared to, for example, call Barack Obama a flaming racist. The parallel is tight.

I suspect we’ll know more tomorrow when the woman has a chance to speak.

Also, there is a difference between advocating on a campus for diversity and supporting a group in its national or state-wide ambitions.

For example, if an African American Reparations bill was being debated, and a gay person, with their views on the matter unstated, signed (on their own time) a petition to put those on a ballot … but had advocated aggressively – and successfully – for racial diversity on campus, would he or she be unsuited for the job of CDO on the grounds that they were insufficiently racially sensitive?

Timothy Kincaid
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

Yes, Andrew, there are some ifs. We will know more tomorrow.

However, I don’t think reparations and marriage are comparable. Perhaps five years ago that would have been a fair comparison. But with over half of the country supporting equality and with over half of African Americans in Maryland supporting equality, Dr. McCaskill’s position is a bit eyebrow raising.

This is not to say that Dr. McCaskill cannot advocate for minorities. But it does say that she IS NOT an advocate for LGBT students. We believe that she has been one in the past and perhaps she will become one tomorrow.

And maybe even if she takes a nasty position and screams about abomination she could still advocate for other students. I’ve never called for her termination.

But for me the question is this: “Do the LGBT students deserve an advocate whom they can trust?”

If your answer is yes, then either she needs to become that person or they need to find someone who can. Because “hey gay kid, F you” is not acceptable to me and it seems that this is kinda what’s going on to some extent. Not to be overly dramatic, but it bothers me that right at the moment, I seem to be just about the only one advocating for them. There are pro-McCaskill and anti-McCaskill articles in abundance, but for me the primary concern is how this impacts those deaf gay kids.

Andrew
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

It’s not a matter of whether the views are popular, it’s whether they are parallel. My point was to question whether a person could disagree with a specific plank desired by an identifiable group and still be considered “trustworthy” or an “ally” if they are otherwise identified as being an aggressive advocate.

In fact, previous articles posted here have suggested quite the opposite of some of what is being imputed here – that she has an excellent on-campus record of LGBT advocacy – so much so that it was quite surprising to the students and staff at the college. That, to my understanding, is her job – not impacting state or federal legislation. Can you do one without the other? Well, it’s dicey and unlikely, but if one is clear and coherent, it’s possible.

I object to the paragraph about “screams about abomination”. From the sound of it, her behavior has been quite low-key. She signed a petition. Do we have the content of that petition, by the way – it might be illuminating (seriously) – if it contains inflammatory language, it seriously weakens her case.

Now, “trust” is a careful question. Do we only trust those who agree with us on everything? If so, is every group allowed to do this? What, then, does a diversity chief do when there are competing groups – say Palestinians and Israelis, or other situations in which perhaps there is a “zero-sum” solution – a winner and a loser? Is it an all-or-nothing litmus test?

By which, I think I really mean, isn’t a CDO position kind of ridiculous?

Lucrece
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

How can you call what she has done “advocacy” when that petition may overshadow it all?

Workshops and pretty words and events don’t come close to matching the impact of state laws.

robert
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

Here is her pastor speaking out against same-sex marriage on the local TV news the day the bill was signed.

http://youtu.be/2M_pPrZBwCw?t=2m48s

It is very clear he doesn’t care about the “democratic process”.

mikenola
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

The core job requirement of a Diversity Officer is conflict resolution. Bridging divides between opposing sides.

If that officer has an issue with one set of Diversity groups they have no business holding that job. It is irrelevant that it is a gay people she is ostensibly against.

the action of signing the petition proves she does not have the requisite bridge building mindset or emotional maturity (if you factor in her initial response) to hold that job.

No matter how you slice it, the act of signing that petition shows animosity towards a minority that a Diversity Officer by job description is required to be devoid of.

Patrick
October 15th, 2012 | LINK

@ Andrew, had you read the original report linked to by boxturtle you would know that the people she is “helping” feel completely betrayed and are unable to trust her. Explain to me how she can effectively work with them now, given her actions. She cannot be an effective advocate if those who she is advocating for want nothing to do with her.

To be blunt, no, if someone works on campus to help students of color but then off campus works to deny them equality, that person is not an effective representative on campus. The reason is that off-campus activities directly impact on-campus activities. Anyone who actually works in academia knows that there is no dividing line between on-campus and off-campus as you imagine there is. What you do on your own time off-campus does, in fact, directly impact what you do on-campus, how you are perceived on-campus, and your relationships on-campus. That you do not seem to comprehend this tells me you are not employed at a college, university or high school. Because if you did work at one of those places, you would know that you are under much greater scrutiny in every aspect of your life.

Andrew
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Patrick, I had read that, but that’s not the point. The point is: her job is advocacy on campus, which she did, without complaint, without subversion, without half-measures. It was the juxtaposition of the petition with her reputation that appears to have left people “betrayed”. One does not feel betrayed when someone does something you expected them to do.

I didn’t say “equality” I said “reparation payments”. Whether or not “reparation payments” and “equality” are the same depends on your point of view. To some people, they are an inextricable precondition to equality. To others, they are a step too far, something that goes beyond their understanding of equality.

This is also true of gay marriage. I happen to believe that marriage and equality go hand-in-hand, but that’s at the heart of what is being debated.

For the record, I worked in academia for a decade. At a University and everything. I don’t agree with your analysis, which tells me you don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about. That wasn’t my experience, and it’s not the experience of a lot of other people I know.

But you kind of make my point – assumptions assumptions assumptions… You don’t know me, and you don’t know this woman. You’re just pissed off.

Mike – it doesn’t show animosity necessarily – it shows a difference of opinion at a minimum. It could be the product of being put on the spot in public by her minister and husband and having to choose between signing a document unlikely to see the light of day and choosing her standing in her congregation or even her marriage. It could be an expression of ignorance, which I would argue might undermine her qualifications for the job (one must be able to defend ones opinions in that position). It could mean an ill-thought out knee-jerk action reconsidered later. It could mean that she’s good at keeping a straight face, but secretly wants to vomit every time she sees a gay person. It could mean a lot of things. We don’t know yet.

Robert – I think you missed the bit about Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Are you suggesting the President hates white people because apparently his minister was a ranting racist? Simple question – “yes” or “no” will suffice.

And, like I said – there’s lots of room for her to hang herself.

Let’s see the text of this petition… if she’s signed something with egregious language, she’s possibly boxed herself into a corner. Let’s hear what she has to say on Tuesday – again, she may well reveal that she’s unsuited for this (ridiculous) position.

Lastly, the job of diversity shouldn’t be relegated to some CDO position. It’s the job of everyone on campus. It needs to be fostered with discussions and education and debates. It needs to be distributed among every professor, integrated into the programs, spearheaded by the Chancellor, incorporated into student codes of conduct, and expressed universally, — not concentrated in some made-up position with a bizarre title (perhaps they should have made her the Diversity Czar?). Diversity and diversity of opinion, however, need to be accommodated, and the separation of the personal from the professional is not unreasonable.

Because, thinking about it, most serious Christians, Muslims, or Jews would be unsuited for this job – most faiths teach that non-members cannot be saved / blessed / whatever. Then again, many atheists don’t respect believers beliefs. Most pro-Palestinian supporters have an objection to a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (making them unsuited for the pro-Israeli Jewish students), whereas many pro-Israel Jewish students could be arguably accused of supporting apartheid, making them unsuitable for the job. Anyone pro-gay-marriage is intrinsically anti-[insert various religions here]. Anyone in favor of reparations payments are discriminating against more recent immigrants. Against illegal immigrants? Racist. In favor of illegal immigrants? Racist. And don’t even get me started about Columbus Day or Thanksgiving.

So, one must have no personal religious beliefs, no personal political beliefs, and be totally teflon on anything relating to history, sociology, or current events.

What a load of horse-hockey.

If this responsibility is distributed over everyone in the institution instead of concentrated in one impossible figurehead, one need only join ones peers in honest debate, good faith, and a willingness to listen. The diversity of the group combined with a strong program of academic freedom is far more sensible than a bizarre CDO title.

What folks here really mean is that they only believe that persons who agree with them in all aspects should be heard, and everyone else deserves to be punished as the horrible people they secretly are. Fire them, turn them out, but at all costs, silence them.

Your teachers must be so proud they raised you to be thinking adults. Hey – someone… pass me a torch, I left it with my pitchfork!

Timothy (TRiG)
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

many atheists don’t respect believers’ beliefs

Personally, I don’t think there’s any need to respect believers’ beliefs; I think there’s a need to respect believers.

TRiG.

Priya Lynn
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

“many atheists don’t respect believers’ beliefs”.

Some of those beliefs include the idea of original sin, inheriting guilt from one’s ancient ancestors and deserving eternal torture for it, a “loving” god that serves up infinite punishment for the finite thought crime of not believing, a “just” god with subjective morality that condemns adultery but impregnates another man’s betrothed without her permission, etc.

Those are not respectable beliefs. I respect your right to have such beliefs but there’s no way I can respect the beliefs themselves.

Robert
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

So the arguments here boil down to: “If you do not behave exactly like we (people not even remotely involved in the situation) expect you to, you can’t do the job.”

Or is it: “Your job, whatever it may be, must be the number one thing in your life and everything takes a back seat to it, and your employeer has every right to ruin your life if you do something perfectly legal on your own time.”

Seems like a lot of people here think that when you take a job, it must be forever your number one importance, and everything else must fall to it. I’m suprised that so many people would be willing to say that they too, would have to forget about anything BUT their job. I guess they wouldn’t care if someone got fired for going to a gay bar if the employer thought it tarnished the workplaces reputation, or you should be fired for being overweight if it might interfere with what the employer thinks.

This woman, by EVERY account, never discriminated against ANY student, did her job effectively, and got suspended for exercising her CONSTITUTIONAL right to sign a pettition. You people give NOM and AFA so much ammunition in their argument that our side wishes to retaliate for every action others take, that we are NOT about equality, but silencing others views. Great Job. She will be the new martyr, as her story is already being used for fundraising, and for proving that some would take away everything from those who disagree with them. She has a right to a political or religous view that is strict to her beliefs, and CAN do the job, which has been shown by her outstanding performance AT the job, and as discussed by those she worked with and for.

Yes. our struggle for equality is important, but I do not want MY equality to be gained on the backs of others. My equality is NOT MORE important than hers, it is EQUALLY important, not MORE. Taking away others rights is not the way to gain your own. And firing or suspending her IS taking away her right to hold a job she has held satisfactorly to those who employ her. That opinion only changed because she did something she has every right to do. I will not take equality by taking it away from others.

Priya Lynn
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Robert, no one is threatening to take away her right to marry, there’s no equating her right to threaten other peoples right to marry with the right to marry itself. If she’s denied the “right” to prevent others from marrying it neither picks her pocket nor breaks her leg, it has no effect whatsoever on her pursuit of happiness whereas being denied the right to marry is a gigantic imposition on a person.

You don’t have a right to vote to deny her the right to a heterosexual marriage so she doesn’t deserve a right to vote to deny you a same sex marriage.

Andrew
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Holy crap here, people. Everyone talking needs to stop until they go back and do their damned homework.

Except Robert, who happens to be right on the money.

Priya, you’re taking away her right to petition her government, as codified in the First Amendment, separately from free speech or religion.

Original text (and yes, you really should read it sometime):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This was, quite literally a petition to the government.

Now, what we’re arguing over here is whether or not someone opposed the right to marry has a legitimate “grievance”, but that’s for the process and other aspects of the Constitution to determine. Her fundamental right to petition, regardless of content, however, receives special protections.

Lastly, I’m not sure you want to stack up an imputed right, such as marriage, which was only found as such in Loving v Virginia (1967) against an original text right, written on to the parchment itself.

Any wonder the University is coming out well ahead of her press conference with a conciliatory message? They’re going to get crucified if they take this to court – they may get drilled regardless… I frankly think she has them over a barrel here, and they could already be well into actionable territory merely for the suspension, even though I think the cooling off period was sensible.

Ryan
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Andrew, you boldest the last line, but curiously seem to have entirely dismissed the first five words. “Congress shall make no law”. Meaning, the government can’t order that McCaskill be fired. Gallaudet is not the government. The constitution does not apply in this case.

Andrew
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Well, it’s kind of apples and oranges, and you’re presenting a moving target.

Everyone else here has been stacking rights up against one another – “she doesn’t have the right to sign a petition because I have the right to marry”. My specific response to them was that they are not on firm footing from that standpoint.

My point here and elsewhere is that this entire case operates outside the purview of the employer – it was not behavior that occurred within the context of her employment, thus the employer has nothing to say about it IMHO, but that’s not necessarily how the world works.

Here, there’s an easy argument that if the employer does, then he also may have the right to determine other freedoms, such as religious affiliation, associations, and others spelled out in that First Amendment. Thus, the employer could fire her merely for attending that church and be done with it.

Now, as to FA rights relating to government, not to the private sphere, I agree partially, but I’m not sure that’s the case here – apparently it depends. (Chris Hayes did an entire show on this subject (employers interfering with FA as well as voting rights) last Sunday – it was fascinating). The right to petition (or free speech, etc.) at a minimum receives heightened scrutiny…

What we’re talking about is coercion (through loss of employment) of freedom of conscience, religious expression, and political representation. In fact, the University may be guilty of violating election laws here. I still think she’s got the university over a barrel.

But you never know – a few years ago, despicably, people were fired for having the wrong bumpersticker during the 2004 presidential election, and it stood up in court.

Maybe our bosses do get to tell us what we get to do 24/7, what we are allowed to say, who we are allowed to know, what we are allowed to believe, and how we vote.

Not sure I want to live in your world, but hey… as long as we win… who cares?

Priya Lynn
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Andrew, the right to petition the government isn’t absolute or unlimited. One doesn’t get to petition the government on every action the government takes and no way should one ever have the right to vote on whether or not a minority deserves the same rights as everyone else.

You should read the first amendment sometime Andrew:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

McCaskill is in no way aggrieved by gays having the same right to marry that she does and hence she deserves no right to petition the government to oppress others.

Priya Lynn
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

And by “petition” I mean vote on.

Ryan
October 16th, 2012 | LINK

Yes Andrew, I want to live in a world where an employee at Romney HQ could be fired for having an Obama bumper sticker on his car. I want to live in a world where a supermarket can fire an employee for signing a petition banning supermarkets. And yes, I want to live in a world where an employee supposedly hired to advocate for gay rights cannot also advocate against them, even when off the clock. I guess I just want to live in a world where employers aren’t forced to pay employees who are working to undermine the very jobs their getting paid to do.

Robert
October 18th, 2012 | LINK

Ryan,

I guess you also want to live in a world where gay people can continue to get fired for being gay, because if you want to live in a world with all those caveats you mention, logic dictates that you agree with my statement.

I am more and more ashamed at how many people are willing to cut off their nose to spite their faces.

You are all for it when it benefits YOU, but not when it benefits your enemies.

Seems everyone here bought into the idea of a perpetual “Company Store”, where your employer can now dictate EVERY aspevt pf your lfe. I guess Citizens United was right, corporations ARE people, and they can tell you how and what to do, all your life, every day, every aspect. And some here would go along with that like sheep to the slaughter.

Priya Lynn
October 18th, 2012 | LINK

Robert, none of us have expressed the idea that an employer should be able to dictate every aspect of an employee’s life. Instead we’ve said that in the narrow cases where an employee’s actions conflict directly with the job they were hired to do an employer should have the right to fire them. If McCaskill had been hired to teach English, physics, or biology her signing of this petition would have been irrelevant to her job description and she would have been free to do so. Her action of putting gay equality up for a vote was in direct conflict with her job as diversity counsellor so her actions were unacceptable. Its no different than if Liberty university hired a gay man to oppose gay rights and then fired him for signing a petition asking for marriage equality – that should be okay. If his job at liberty university were as a janitor, or teaching computer science then it wouldn’t be okay to fire him for signing a petition asking for marriage equality.

This is not a matter of an employer dictating every aspect of an employee’s life, it is a matter of an employer asking there employee not to undertake actions in direct opposition to the job they were hired to do.

Blake
October 19th, 2012 | LINK

Yeah Timothy, except the petition & the referendum are a part of the legislative process in Maryland.

Every bill that passes is subject to a people’s veto.

If we’re going to gain our rights legislatively we’re going to have to do it through the mechanisms of the legislative process. We can’t leap-frog one of the processes because it’s unfair (it is) immoral (it is) or for any other reason under the sun.

Nor can we assign motivations to her regardless of the public statements because the petition itself are about the text of the bill and not the subject of the bill

So even if she were told by her pastor to sign the petition because all good Christians oppose gay rights; we have no reason insight into her motivations.

One could, hypothetically, vote against the Bill due to the extra-legal-loopholes it provides for religious folks in defining marriage.

The point is, you have to move a lot of items from the category of “well I just don’t know” into the category of “I know” in order to make the sorts of accusations y’all are making.

Now that she’s lawyered-up, I would suggest y’all do the same before the libel suit is served.

Timothy Kincaid
October 19th, 2012 | LINK

Blake, there is nothing libelous in what I wrote. Nor, for that matter, am I making any accusations.

Blake
October 19th, 2012 | LINK

Defamation reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct their business is defamation per se.

If I were you I would seek legal advice from an expert. Ofttimes local bar associations will have a program where you can get legal consultation for as little as $35.

Priya Lynn
October 19th, 2012 | LINK

Blake, its only defamation if its untrue and the person saying it knows its untrue. Its not defamation – don’t quit your day job.

Timothy Kincaid
October 19th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you, Blake.

I think I adequately understand the law on defamation as it applies to bloggers, but I appreciate the recommendation.

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