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Posts for May, 2014

McCaskill’s lawsuit tossed

Timothy Kincaid

May 6th, 2014


Before there was controversy around Mozilla’s appointment of Brendan Eich to the position of CEO, there was Angela McCaskill. She too found controversy with her name attached to a public campaign to take away same-sex marriage rights, Maryland’s Question 6.

In some ways the situations were similar.

Like Eich, McCaskill held a high-level position at a well-known organization. She too refused to specifically state her personal views. And both had associates and underlings who were offended by their action.

But there were also differences.

McCaskill’s position as Chief Diversity Officer at Gallaudet, a Washington, D.C. university for deaf and hard of hearing students, required that she work as an advocate for gay students. She did not give to the campaign – that we know of – but publicly signed a petition to bring the right to marry to a vote after a fiery sermon from her pastor denouncing same-sex marriage. And while Eich resigned, McCaskell was put on a paid suspension before being eventually reinstated (McCaskell’s attorney insists that she was demoted and that she has less access to the Dean.)

There was also one more significant difference. The organizers of the campaign for legal same-sex marriage, along with the Governor and other supporters, called for Gallaudet to reinstate McCaskill and insisted that her support of the vote was a free speech issue.

We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” Levin said in his statement. “Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6, which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

Here at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway denounced the school’s action and hoped for resolution.

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.

I agreed in principle with Jim that McCaskill had a right to her political opinions, but felt that the school may have been judicious in creating a cooling off period.

I think it is in the best interest of Gallaudet – and gay students, and Dr. McCaskill – that she relinquish diversity duties until after the election and things cool off and that her path forward be determined at that time. If marriage equality passes she will have an excellent pathway to putting this behind her. If not, it may be more difficult to regain the trust of gay students who will feel that society has chosen yet another realm in which to reject, deny, and alienate them and may be less ready to trust someone who played a part in making that happen.

McCaskill certainly didn’t contribute to any cooling off. She held a press conference denouncing her employer as being intolerant and allowed her story to be used as an attack ad on supporters of equality (her attorney said she’d rather the ad not run but she did not denounce it or criticize those who ran it).

As time went on and McCaskill became ever more the victim (never, to my knowledge, acknowledging that the supporters of same-sex marriage had come to her defense), I became concerned whether she had either the capacity or the will to fulfill her tasks as advocate for gay students.

And, after her reinstatement in January 2013, it seems that she made little to no effort to address the concerns of gay students at Gallaudet.

In March she slipped into the back of an LGBT event at the school, leaving students feeling dismayed and awkward. (deafqueer)

“I don’t understand why she came,” one Gallaudet student told Planet DeafQueer. “There has been no apology and no dialogue. Does she think we’re just going to forget and move on?”

CNAAnother student told Planet DeafQueer that he was pissed off. “She shouldn’t have been there,” he said. “Not until she makes amends. I felt like she was invading my space.”

She followed the meeting with a letter to the school in which she phrased the situation thusly:

In late October, I exercised my right to sign a petition which resulted in a wide range of feelings, concerns, and reactions across campus.

The letter did not speak at all about or to the gay Gallaudet students, causing students to express more dismay.

I don’t know much of her efforts since that time of reconciliation. None have been reported. I hope that either Dr. McCaskill steps up to this task or that alternate support has been established for them in the department, as reasons remain to question her devotion to their advocacy.

Though she was reinstated to her position, McCaskill sued the school for a gamut of discrimination claims, including discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status and political affiliation. She also sued for defamation and negligent hiring.

In addition, she sued the coworker who discovered her name on the petition, and the coworker’s partner, saying that they criticized her religion, defamed her as “anti-gay” and that consequently the school “intentionally or negligently caused her emotional distress.”

Now the judge has tossed out McCaskill’s case. Well, to the extent she made one. (Courthouse News)

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed McCaskill’s complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim.

“It is difficult to make out precisely what protected activity plaintiff thinks prompted her suspension and demotion,” the April 14 ruling states. “In her complaint, she alleges that defendant violated the [District of Columbia Human Rights Act] by retaliating against her ‘on account of her exercising or enjoying her right to be free from unlawful discrimination.’ At first, one might think plaintiff is claiming that she faced retaliation for complaining that she had been discriminated against. In the next paragraph of her complaint, however, McCaskill alleges that the ‘protected activity’ in which she was engaged was ‘signing [the] legislative initiative’ and ‘expressing herself as a married, heterosexual, African-American, Christian woman/voter, who, through prayer and worship, searched for a means to enlighten Maryland voters on the issue of same-sex marriage in such a way to foster discourse, tolerance, and respect for the democratic process.’”

The judge concluded: “This, quite simply, is not the sort of ‘protected activity’ contemplated by the statute.”

Boasberg also dismissed McCaskill’s claim of a hostile work environment, stating that McCaskill – who said in her complaint that Bienvenu threatened her “with her sign-voice elevated” – “offered no facts to support the contention that such alleged mistreatment was due to her membership in any protected class.”

Her attorney has said that he may refile.

McCaskill back at Gallaudet

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2013

ABC

Gallaudet University has reinstated its chief diversity officer after a 3-month paid suspension for signing a petition circulated by opponents of gay marriage in Maryland.

University President T. Alan Hurwitz announced the reinstatement of Angela McCaskill in an email to the campus community on Monday. The statement doesn’t elaborate on the reasons for the reinstatement, and university officials declined further comment.

The reappointment was made while students were on break. planet.queerdeaf.com is not pleased

We are extremely disappointed to learn that Dr. Angela McCaskill, who signed an anti-gay petition to bring marriage equality up for vote in Maryland, has been reinstated in her position at Gallaudet as Chief Diversity Officer.

As for McCaskill,

“I am not anti-gay. I never have been and I never will be,” says McCaskill.

No, no, of course not. Heavens to Murgatroyd, how could anyone have gotten that impression.

What ever happened to Angela McCaskill?

Timothy Kincaid

November 15th, 2012

In the weeks running up to Maryland’s Question Six, one could hardly go a day without some headline blaring the tragic tale of the diversity officer who opposed equality for gay deaf students. They demanded that the world stand in solidarity of Gallaudet’s Angela McCaskill and her right to oppose the rights of those she was hired to defend. They trumpeted her as an example of the calamity that would befall supporters of “traditional marriage” if those uppity gays were allowed to marry.

But now that Question Six has passed, there’s nothing but silence. Not a word. Narry a peep.

I wonder if McCaskill is now discovering that her ardent supporters were only interested in her employment situation so far as it allowed them to play her as a martyr for their own cause.

Anti-gay McCaskill ad uses copyrighted material

Timothy Kincaid

October 18th, 2012

From the Baltimore Sun:

Gallaudet University is asking the group opposing Maryland’s same-sex marriage law to take down a new commercial that features a university staff member who was suspended for signing a referendum petition.

“The video they are using, the ad, is actually copyrighted by us,” said Katherine Murphy, executive director of communications and public relations at Gallaudet in Washington. “We’re in touch with our attorneys to have them follow up with the group to ask them to take down the ad.”

Deana Bass, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said the group has not heard any formal complaints about the spot, and it has no intention of removing it.

“It is a fair use of the footage,” said Bass. “At this point, [the incident] is in the public space. We want people to understand what is at stake with Question 6.”

On Tuesday, J. Wyndal Gordon, a lawyer for McCaskill, told The Baltimore Sun that his client had not agreed to be featured in any advertising about the same-sex marriage referendum. He said McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition to allow voters to decide the issue was not an indication of her position on same-sex marriage.

Gordon later told a Washington television station that if McCaskill “had her druthers,” the commercial would be pulled. He did not return calls Wednesday evening.

It’s fair to note that she absolutely does have her “druthers” about her response to the ad. She could publicly denounce those who seek to use her story to their advantage. She has not done so. She has accused Gallaudet of a host of things, but she has not had one single public word of criticism for the anti-gay campaign. One must assume that is because she doesn’t want to.

McCaskill anti-gay marriage ad runs

Timothy Kincaid

October 17th, 2012

As anticipated, the paid suspension of Dr. Angela McCaskill from her job as Chief Diversity Officer has been the feature of an ad opposing Question Six:

YouTube Preview Image

So far, McCaskill has had nothing to say about the anti-gay campaign’s use of her image. That is not to say that she doesn’t care about her image – quite the contrary (WaPo)

The president of Gallaudet University said Tuesday that the chief diversity officer who was put on administrative leave after signing an anti-gay marriage petition is welcome to eventually return to her position.

But an attorney representing Angela McCaskill said that would likely only happen if the university compensates McCaskill for the emotional distress she endured, along with the damage to her reputation.

But I guess being the face of the campaign to take away the marriage rights granted by the legislature does not do any damage to her reputation. Or none that she cares about.

Transcript:

They promised us Question Six protects people who oppose gay marriage. But it doesn’t.

Dr. Angela McCaskill is an official at Gallaudet University. She signed the petition putting Question Six on the ballot. Then she was suspended from her job.

She’s not alone. When marriage was redefined elsewhere – as Question Six does – people who believe in traditional marriage have been punished. They were threatened. He was fired. They were sued. Who will be next?

We’re all at risk under Question Six.

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.