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Posts for November, 2012

NOM Reacts

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2012

Nope. Nothing historic to see here:

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), released the following statement today:

“Obviously we are very disappointed in losing four tough election battles by narrow margins. We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America. As our opponents built a huge financial advantage, the odds became even steeper. We ran strong campaigns and nearly prevailed in a very difficult environment, significantly out-performing the GOP ticket in every state.

Despite the fact that NOM was able to contribute a record amount to the campaigns (over $5.5 million), we were still heavily outspent, by a margin of at least four-to-one. We were fighting the entirety of the political establishment in most of the states, including sitting governors in three of the states who campaigned heavily for gay marriage. Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case. Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.

Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it. Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback. There is much work to do, and we begin that process now.”

From 1961 to 2012: Today’s Victories Were A Long Time Coming

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2012

Fifty-one years ago today, José Sarria, a drag performer at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat bar, lost his bid for election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Desite the loss, his election was historic as an openly gay candidate stood for election for the first time. Sarria earned nearly 6,000 votes, putting him in nineth place city-wide in a contest for five at-large seats. Ninth out of thirty-four, which mean that, as Sarria later recalled, “From that day on, nobody ran for anything in San Francisco without knocking on the door of the gay community.”

Fifty-one years later, the long-unimaginable happened. A president ended a ban on gays in the military, ordered his Justice Department to stop defending the DOMA, and announced his full support for the rights of everyone to marry. He was re-elected, against a candidate who was against all of those things. Five openly gay candidates for Congress won their races, and for the first time, a lesbian will sit in the Senate. In none of those races were the candidates’ sexual orientation a major issue.

And after voters in 31 states voted to add bans on same-sex marriage to their state constitutions, Minnesota voters stopped the tide and refused to write discrimination into their organizing document. But that’s not all. Voters in three states (assuming the victory in Washington holds) have gone much further than ever before. Citizens in Maine, Maryland and Washington have given their approval to allow their gay and leasbian neighbors to actually begin marrying in the next couple of months. They didn’t just say no to a permanent ban while existing laws continued to prevent gay people from marrying. They changed existing law so that those marriages can take place.

And they did that at the ballot box. Remember how our opponents always said that every time voters weighted in on marriage , they always voted to deny marriage equality? No more. I would love to be sitting in the offices at the Family “Research” Council and National Organization for Marriage right now. They have seen their era end right before their eyes. But make no mistake: they will also steadfastly refuse to acknowledge its importance.

Right now, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. By the end of January, two and probably three more states will join them. But in the best case, less than 16% of Americans will live in states with marriage equality. Yes, that’s nearly a third higher now, but it just goes to show how far we still have to go.

It will be generations, I think, before we can win marriage equality throughout the U.S. at the ballot box. In fact, there are some states where that will never happen; it will also take some key court victories before all Americans are created equal. We will undoubtedly experience more losses and setbacks in the years ahead. But every great movement moves forward one step at a time. This was a big step, but it is only the latest one in a long line of just putting one foot in front of the other. We’ve been doing that for more than half a century. But right now it feels pretty good, now that we’re starting to get the hang of it.

Marriage Equality Wins In All Four States!

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2012

In the very early morning hours, vote tallies in Minnesota and Washington meant that those two states have joined Maryland and Maine in rejecting attempts by anti-gay activists to deny marriage equality to LGBT couples.

Voters in Minnesota rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, making Minnesota the first state to do so since 2006, when Arizona voters rejected a similar ban. (Arizona voters later approved a narrower ban on marriage only in 2008.) With 99% of the ballots counted, 1,504,189 (51.3%) voted against the Amendment 1 while 1,396,879 (47.6%) who voted for it. In addition, there were 31,886 (1.1%) blank ballots cast for Amendment 1. Those were ballots in which voters marked their choices for other races but left the ballot blank for Amendment 1. Because the Minnesota constitution requires that a proposed amendment pass with a majority of all ballots cast, the blank ballots are effectively count as “no” ballots.

In Washington state,the vote counting continues in the all mail-in state, but the news was also good. Referendum 74 was ahead by 985,308 (51.8%) to 917,197 (48.2%). Because a ballot must be postmarked by November 7, the vote count is likely to continue for several more days, but observers are optimistic that Washington will join Maine and Maryland in choosing marriage equality at the ballot box:

The holdup was King County, which still had tons of ballots to count. Still, with 65 percent of King County voters approving R-74 in the initial count, and that trend likely to continue through the full count, seasoned political watchers were predicting victory. “Fifty-two percent, with King County what it is—it’s still time to call Washington State for marriage equality,” said Governor Chris Gregoire.

Similarly, Matt Barreto, who runs the Washington Poll, projected that R-74 would be approved and added that he expected Jay Inslee to be the next governor. “King County delivered both,” Barreto said.

Gregoire, who had a late-career conversion on marriage equality, called her daughters up to the podium at the Westin and thanked them for changing her mind. “They told me, ‘This is the civil rights issue of this generation,'” Gregoire said. “They’re right.”

In related news, voters in Iowa rejected an attempted recall of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who joined in the unanimous 2009 decision which found denying marriage to same-sex couples unconstitutional. Social conservatives had mounted a fierce retention vote campaign to remove Wiggins from the bench. With 83% of the vote counted, Wiggins was retained with 54% of the vote.

These results represent a colossal, historic loss for National Organization for Marriage, anti-marriage strategist Frank Schubert, and anti-gay activists generally. Even if the decision in Washington should be reversed, this day represents a historic turning point in the fight for equality. Not only did voters defeat an attempt to permanently and constitutionally bar same-sex couples from marrying, but for the first time in history voters gave their approval for the right of their LGBT neighbors to protect their families with the rights and duties of legal marriage. There will be wins and loses to come, but future generations will today as the day in which the politics of division and demonization broke down and failed to do what they had reliably been counted on to accomplish before.  We have just seen history being made before our very eyes.

By the way, NOM has been silent so far. No press releases, no blog post. Just this plaintive tweet from about 11:00 p.m. EST last night:

Here is the latest rundown for all four states:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 300,336 (53.3%) √
No: 262,820 (46.7%)
75.5% reporting.

Maine’s Secretary of State has up to 20 days to verify election results, and the governor has 10 days to do the same. After that, there is a 30 day delay before the law to goes into effect. Marriage equality will go into effect sometime between December 7, 2012 (30 days after the election) and January 6, 2013 (60 days after the election).

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 1,208,068 (52.0%) 
No: 1,112,998 (48.0%)
97.5% reporting.

Marriage equality will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 1,504,189 (51.3)%  √
Blanks: 31,892 (1.1%)
Yes: 1,396,879 (47.6%)
99.0% reporting.

There will be no change to Minnesota’s marriage law, which currently prohibits marriage between same-sex couples.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 985,308 (51.8)%  √
No: 917,197 (48.2%)
51.3% reporting.

Ballot counting will continue during regular working hours, with updated totals being posted throughout the afternoon for the next several days. If the current lead holds for Ref 74, marriage equality will go into effect on December 6, 2012.

Maryland’s Question 6 Wins! (UPDATED!)

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2012

Voters in Maryland have approved Question 6, which will allow same-sex couples to marry just like everyone else.

With 84% precincts reporting, Question 6 is out front 1,138,135 to 823,931, or 58-42%. Marriage equality will become the law of the land on January 1, 2013.

Update: No, not quite. Politico has swapped the results between Question 6 and the “Illegal immigrant tuition” question. For the love of god!!!  Question 6 is up, but only 52-48%, way too early to call.

Update: Now it’s official. With 92% reporting, Question 6 has passed 1,126,598 to 1,050,179 (52-48%) Maryland voters have joined those in Maine to approve marriage equality at the ballot box.

Election Liveblog

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2012

2:00 EST: One more thing:

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Retention Vote:
David Wiggins:
Yes (retain): 54% 
No: 46%
83% reporting.

NOM is having a very bad night. A historically bad night. I’m going to bed now and I will sleep very, very soundly.

1:39 EST: President Obama is now giving his victory speech. And with that, I’m going to sign off for the night. I will provide an update with the latest results again tomorrow morning.

1:30 EST: Here is a rundown of all of the LGBT-related races I’ve been following:

BALLOT MEASURES:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.2% √
No: 45.8%
58.1% reporting.

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.2% 
No: 48.1%
96.8% reporting.

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 49.2.5%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 49.2%
67.4% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.8.9%
No: 48.2%
49.9% reporting.

SENATE RACE:

Wisconsin:
Tammy Baldwin (D, openly lesbian): 51.2%
Tommy Thompson (R): 46.2.%
86.8% reporting.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES:

Arizona:
Kyrsten Sinema (D, openly bi): 47.4%
Vernon Parker (R): 46.3%
86% reporting.

California:
Mark Takano (D, openly gay): 54.4%
John Tavaglione (R): 45.6%
13% reporting.

Colorado:
Jared Polis (D, openly gay): 54.6%
Kevin Lundberg (R): 40.4%
45.3% reporting.

Massachusetts:
Richard Tisei (R, openly gay): 47.1%
John Tierney (D) 48.4%
98.3% reporting.

New York:
Sean Patrick Maloney (D, openly gay): 51.7%
Nan Hayworth (R): 48.3%
96.7% reporting.

Rhode Island:
David Cicilline (D, openly gay): 53.1%
Brendan Dohert (R): 40.7%
97.0% reporting

Wisconsin:
Mark Pocan (D, openly gay): 67.4%
Chad Lee (R): 32.6%
90.5% reporting.

12:55 EST: Gov. Mitt Romney is now giving a very classy consession speech, congratulating President Obama for his win.

12:50 EST: Here is a rundown of the ballot measures addressing same-sex marriage. Voters in two states have approved marriage equality. Voters in Washington are on their way to approving marriage equality, and Minnesota voters look poised to turn down a proposal to write a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution. After voters in 30 states have written marriage equality bans into their state constitutions, we now have a remarkable turnaround in 2012. Remember this day.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54% 
No: 46%
51% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52% 
No: 48%
93% Reporting

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 48.5%
Blanks: 3.7%
Yes: 47.9%
53% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52%
No: 48%
50% reporting.

12:40 EST: Tammy Baldwin has now given her victory speech. With 79% reporting, she has defeated Gov. Tommy Thompson 51-47%, making her the first openly gay Senator in American history.

12:38 EST: Now I’m ready to call Maryland’s Question 6 a win for equality! With 92% reporting, Question 6 has passed 1,126,598 to 1,050,179 (52-48%) Maryland voters have joined those in Maine to approve marriage equality at the ballot box. I don’t know about you, but this really feels like a truly historic turning point.

12:30 EST: Colorado has now gone to Obama, bringing his lead to 290-201. There’s a lot of talk about whether Ohio was prematurely declared, but even if Ohio went red, this would still be Obama’s victory. An ugly one, especially if he doesn’t win the popular vote, but it is a win.

12:28 EST: Another gay congressman is headed to Washington. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) has defeated Rep. Nan Hayworth (R), 52%-48%.

12:15 EST: Believe it or not, Politico has had the results swapped between Question 6 and the “Illegal immigrant tuition” question all night long. For the love of god!!!  Question 6 is up, but only 52-48%, way too early to call.

12:00 EST: With 44.1% reporting in Maine, Question 1 is projected to win!

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.4%
No: 45.6%
44.1% Reporting

11:45 EST: With 81% reporting in Maryland, Question 6 is projected to win!

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
81% Reporting

11:31 EST: Remember James Hartline?

I took my Bible with me today and proudly honored God with my decisions. I refused to vote for the demonized Mormon Cultist Mitt Romney or Obama. Instead, like nearly two million other voters, I marked other and wrote in Jesus.

11:30 EST: Has Tammy Baldwin won her Senate race? Reuters called it, but right now with 53% reporting, she is only up 49-48%. She may yet win, but it looks like a lot of folks might have jumped the gun a bit.

11:23 EST: CNN has given Ohio to Obama. President Barack Obama, the most pro-gay president in American history, has been re-elected.

11:05 EST: A slew of new projections has put Obama on top 243-191. Ohio continues to lean toward Romney, but CNN is now mapping out multiple possibilities for Obama to win even without Ohio.

Here are the state marriage ballot measures. All of them are still looking good so far.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 53%
No: 47%
30% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
55% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 52%
Blanks: 3.8%
Yes: 45%
19% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:55 EST: Obama is now tied with Romney, 172-172. Ohio is leaning toward Obama, and FLorida and Virginia are very nearly tied so far. It’s going to be a long night.

10:35 EST: Great news so far in the three states with marriage on the ballot that are reporting:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 55%
No: 45%
16% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 60%
No: 40%
41% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 57%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 42%
7% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:25 EST. In Rhode Island, it looks like openly gay Rep. David Cicilline has defeated Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. With 82% reporting, Cicilline is ahead 50-44%.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei is trailing in his question to become the first openly gay Republican congressman. Rep. John Tierney is leading 49-47% with 58% reporting.

10:15 EST: We can celebrate Tammy Baldwin’s win now. Fox News is projecting that she will be the new fabulously openly lesbian Senator from Wisconsin. History is made!

Question 1 in Maine is now tightening. With 11% reporting, it is now up 53-47%.

10:00 EST: Mitt Romney has won his home state of Utah. But he lost New Hampshire

With 7% reporting, Question 1 is passing in Maine, 55-45%.

With 23% reporting, Question 6 is passing in Maryland, 61-39%.

With only 3% reporting, Amendment 1 is trailing in Minnesota. 61-38%, with about 1.5% of the ballots blank for the proposed amendment. Blank ballots are will be counted as no votes.

9:45 EST: CNN Projects Elizabeth Warren (D) has unseated Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, and JOe Donnelly (D) has defeated Richard Mourdock (R) in Indiana. God’s will, you know. These are both pick-ups for Dems.

9:42 EST: NBC and Fox have given Wisconsin to Obama. CNN has finally given Pennsylvania to Obama also.

9:35 EST: The Associated Press has declared Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) the winner in her Senate race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), making Baldwin the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history. Oops, take that back. The AP has NOT called for Baldwin.

9:20 EST: Fox called Pennsylvania for Obama. I’ll take it.

9:15 EST: Vote counts for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1 are excruciatingly slow. With 3% counted in Maine, Question 1 is trailing 4,253-5,362. In Maryland, Question 6 is passing 192,860-157,767 with only 1% of the vote counted. Obviously with vote tallies this low, it’s way to early to see any trends.

9:00 EST: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Last polls close in Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. And with it, a whole slew of new projecitons, mostly lining up with expectations. So far, it looks like the red states are going heavily red, while the blue states are slower to come in. Right now, Romney is up 152-123.

CNN says that the Republicans will hold on to the House. Obama is getting a lot of grief for not campaigning in key House races on behalf of Democratic candidates.

8:50 EST: Alabama is red. Romney is up 82-64.

People are still in line in Florida and Virginia, even as polls have officially closed. Those who are in line will get to vote. Twitter hashtag #stayinline is now trending upward. It sure would have been nice if someone had mentioned to Florida and Virginia election officials that they were supposed to be ready for an election today.

8:30 EST: Polls just closed in Arkansas, which CNN has called for Romney. CNN has also called Tennessee as well, putting Romney ahead 73-64.

So far, only about 1% of the results are in for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1, which means that there aren’t enough results to talk about yet.

8:25 EST: In the Senate races, it looks like the Angus King, the independent candidate for Maine’s Senator to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is headed to Washington. He hasn’t said which party he will caucus with, but most observers expect that he will caucus with the Dems. Another possible pickup for the Dems might be Joe Donnelly, who is leading Richard Mourdock by 50-44% with 30% of the votes counted. Mourdock, you may recall, got in trouble during the debate when he said that when a child is born as a result of rape, it’s God’s will.

8:16 EST: Georgia now goes to Romney, bringing the EC count to 64-56 for Obama.

8:00 EST: Polls have now closed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

CNN has called a Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Obama, and Oklahoma for Romney. This puts Obama up 64-40 in the Electoral College, with Maine splitting its vote 3-1 for Obama. (Nebraska is the only other state that is not winner-take-all in the Electoral College.)

Virginia officially closed but:

Polls closed in Virginia at 7 p.m. ET, but with long lines at polling places around the state — and those in line still able to vote — the state is delaying counting votes so as not to unduly influence those still waiting in line. Smart move.

7:43 EST: CNN has now called South Carolina and West Virginia for Romney. Not much of a surprise. It’s now Romney, 33-3 in the electoral count.

Polls close in Maryland and Maine at 8:00. Hopefully we’ll start to get an early look at the marriage ballot measures in those states soon after.

7:30 EST: Polls have now closed in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. CNN’s exit poll has Obama up by 3 in Ohio and tied in North Carolina.

7:19 EST: CNN has called Kentucky for Romney, and Vermont for Obama, which means that Romney leads the electoral college count 8-3. And we’re off!

7:00 EST: Polls have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. First results will probably begin within the half hour. Here are the races I’ll be watching, in addition to the presidential election and any others you think I should keep an eye out for.

Consider the comments thread for this post an open thread, which I’ll be watching for whatever tips you have. And jokes. We may need some jokes. Or videos of cute kittens. Whatever you got. You can also email them by hitting the Contact Us link on the sidebar.

Maryland Ballot Errors Raise Fears Over Question 6

Jim Burroway

October 25th, 2012

The early voting ballots have been mailed out, and Question 6, which would allow same-sex couples to marry, is missing on some of those ballots:

Some absentee voters in Maryland have reported that when they received their ballots, the second page was missing, meaning those voters did not have an opportunity to vote on Question 6, a measure that, if approved, would ratify the Civil Marriage Protection Act passed earlier in the year.

…The faulty absentee ballots were first reported by NBC 4 in Washington and were confirmed by Maryland State Board of Elections deputy administrator Ross Goldstein, who told the station that some of the incomplete absentee ballots were in vote-rich Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are northern Washington, D.C. suburbs where support for marriage equality is expected to be relatively strong.

This fiasco follows earlier reports that Spanish language versions of the ballot includes a mistranslated word in Question 6’s explanation which might cause confused voters to believe that voting “no” will allow same-sex marriage.

It’s Getting Very Ugly in Maryland (Updated)

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2012

Angela McCaskill speaking at a Press Conference in Annapolis

The Washington Blade has the full details of a press conference held today by Callaudet University’s chief diversity officer, Angela McCaskill, who was placed on paid administrative leave after a previously unidentified faculty member learned that McCaskill had signed a petition to place Question 6 on the Maryland ballot. McCaskill identified the faculty members as Martina Mienvenu and Kendra Smith. According to The Blade:

“I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated,” she said, adding that Hurwitz sought to punish her for merely exercising her private right as a Maryland resident to sign a petition to allow the voters to make the final decision on whether the same-sex marriage law should be retained or overturned.

“They have attempted to intimidate me and tarnish my reputation,” she said.

…McCaskill stated repeatedly that she remains neutral on the gay marriage ballot referendum. She said her decision to sign the petition to place the marriage question on the ballot was based on her strong belief that all controversial issues should be put before the voters in Maryland.

She said she is a strong supporter of the LGBT community and noted that she has pushed for funding for Gallaudet’s one-year-old Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally (LGBTQA) Resource Center

There’s another way in which this is getting really ugly. Also appearing at the news conference was Maryland State Rep. Aisha Braveboy, chair of the legislature’s Black Caucus. Noting that caucus members fall on both sides of Question 6, she told reporters that the Caucus was “highly troubled” that McCaskell was being penalized for participating in the petition and referendum process. African-American support for Question 6 risen significantly since January, but that could be jeopardinzed if McCaskill is seen as being penalized for exercising her rights as a voter. There are far, far too many ugly historical precedents in our country’s racial history for that to go unnoticed.

Update: Gov. Martin O’Mally, who supports Question 6, has joined Marylanders for Marriage Equality in calling for McCaskill’s reinstatement. “Everyone has a right to their opinion, and everyone has a right to participate in the political process,” Gov. O’Malley said in a statement. Lt Gov. Anthony Brown, another Question 6 supporter, has also called for McCaskill’s reinstatement. Meanwhile, opponents of Question 6 told the Baltimore Sun that they will run television commercials “using the Gallaudet incident as an example of the intolerance they say would accompany passage of Question 6.”

Gallaudet University President “Expects a Resolution” to Allow McCaskill to Stay

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2012

Chris Geidner reports that Gallaudet University’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, is scheduled to hold a press conference with her lawyer in Annapolis, MD., today, possibly to discuss legal action that she may be considering after Gallaudet’s president, Alan Hurwitz, placed her on administrative leave. Hurwitz placed McCaskil on paid leave after it was revealed that McCaskill signed a petition forcing Maryland’s same-sex marriage law to go on the ballot as Question 6. Hours before that news conference was set to take place, Hurwitz issued a statement “indicat(ing) forcefully that Gallaudet University would like to work with its Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, to enable her to return to the community from her administrative leave.”

 I placed her on paid administrative leave as a prudent action to allow the university—and Dr. McCaskill—the time to consider this question after the emotions of first reactions subsided. While this has become an issue beyond our campus, as President of Gallaudet University, my number one concern is our university community—our students, faculty and staff and so many others who support us. I act on their behalf, not with any agenda other than their well-being as all of us work to prepare these university students for the future. While I expect that a resolution of this matter can be reached that will enable Dr. McCaskill to continue as our Chief Diversity Officer, this will require that she and the University community work together to respond to the concerns that have been raised.

…Dr. McCaskill has been, and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward.

Gallaudet University Diversity Officer compromised her own ability to perform

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

October 11th, 2012

As fellow Box Turtle Jim Burroway discussed, the Chief Diversity Officer of Gallaudet University, Dr. Angela McCaskill, has been placed on paid suspension as a result of signing an anti-gay marriage petition. Jim believes that the suspension is unwarranted and that she should not be fired (a position shared by the campaigns both for and against Maryland’s Question 6).

I, however, think that suspension may have been the University’s wisest choice. It’s probably not the choice that plays best into our campaign to win equality in Maryland, but I think it may be the choice that best serves the interest of the university and its students.

I respect Dr. McCaskill’s right to her political views. I defend her right to religious beliefs. And I support her right to participate in the political process.

But Dr. McCaskill’s rights are not the only ones that should be considered. Her employer too has the right to expect an employee to perform their job, and the LGBT students who attend (a group that the media seems incapable to find) have the right to have an advocate who advocates for them.

While political position is generally not a prerequisite for holding most jobs – and, indeed, may not necessarily determine whether a person can perform well in any job – there are some jobs in which perception and public advocacy do impact a person’s ability. In situations in which interaction with others requires some level of acceptance and clear communication, a perceived position which threatens or confuses those with whom an employee interacts can make it difficult or impossible to complete their tasks.

For example, a Dean of Theology at a church-affiliated university may be an atheist and still be able to teach religion and administer coursework without difficulty. But if she were to publicly identify as such and advocate for the cessation of all religion it would so complicate matters with her staff and alienate students that it would impact her ability to perform and would probably severely compromise the school’s ability to continue operations.

Similarly a Chicano Studies professor may believe that immigration law should be fully implemented and that all those in the country who did not follow the legally established steps should be deported immediately, and still be able to teach history and theory associated with that study. But were he to advocate for such positions in op-eds, he would find his classroom empty or devolved to chaos, a situation that the school would be both entitled and wise to address.

This is not to say that an atheist could not introduce difficult questions or a Chicano studies professor could not discuss the nature of law or challenge presumptions. Indeed, they should do so even if they are the most ardent orthodox Christian or a strong advocate for open borders. But the challenge should be part of a shared experience and should always keep the needs of their students in mind. It should never be easily perceived as “you are out there in public hurting me”. Their employer deserves better.

And, unfortunately, that is what has happened in this case. McCaskill’s job is to deal with matters that impact students who are not part of the majority, including gay students. She is paid to do that job.

And this is a doubly difficult job in that all of Gallaudet’s students are hearing-challenged and start from an outsider’s perspective. Being unable to hear in our culture is a significant disadvantage in that so much of our culture is driven by audio cues, nuance, and subtle shading of sound. A written sentence (e.g “I love Mitt Romney”) can have the opposite meaning when the spoken sentence is produced with aurally detected snark or sarcasm or irony. And ASL is not a word-for-word direct translation, it is a distinct language; a reality that presents further challenges to feeling a full part of society.

Complicating matters is that often non-hearing people feel more welcomed within the gay community (or, at least, that is what I’ve been told). Gay events often have signers and there is, by my observation, more general awareness that not everyone is exactly the same. So something that is perceived as hostile to gay people is likely to be felt as “personal” for many more students than just those who are gay.

This isn’t to say that McCaskill cannot support gay students with skill and charm. But her job is not limited to ensuring scholastic equality, it also entails addressing the specific concerns and needs of minority students. And feeling equal is unquestionably a specific need of gay students.

So the question is not just whether she can support the LGBT students at Gallaudet. It may be that gay students cannot be supported by her. She may come bearing the message that deaf and hard-of-hearing LGBT students are welcomed and valued, but those students may be unable to receive that message, it being drowned out by the perception of “this woman thinks I’m inferior and unworthy and wants to take away my rights”.

Jim notes that he has not seen so much as a hint that her job performance has been in any way diminished before or since signing the petition. I disagree.

While the time before her advocacy against equality became known may not reflect any job diminishment, clearly the time after that act became known has impacted her job. If a single gay student is feeling unwanted and unwelcome and betrayed, then she has accomplished the opposite of what she is employed to do. And clearly some are.

This may be a situation that can be resolved. McCaskill may be able to clarify that she acted rashly and without thinking. She may be able to regain trust. And, as she has a good history and is seen as having been an ally, I suspect that this is something that can be and will be repaired.

But she is specifically tasked with the job of making minority students feel welcomed and included and that she is their advocate. But as currently some are instead feeling alienated and confused, she simply is not performing her job. Gay students are heart broken and angry.

And until such time as those students can again feel that McCaskill, as a representative of Gallaudet, does see them as valued and welcome and included and equal and that she will advocate for their specific needs, then she should not be the one to do perform those tasks. And until Gallaudet can appraise the situation and determine that trust can be regained, they are wise to suspend those specific duties.

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.

Maryland Marriage Equality Supporters Oppose Gallaudet Diversity Officer’s Suspension

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2012

Josh Levin, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, has released a statement opposing Gallaudet University’s suspension of Angela McCaskill, the school’s diversity officer, for signing a petition calling for Maryland’s marriage equality law being put on the ballot:

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.”

Question 6 asks Maryland voters to approve the state legislature’s move earlier this year to provide marriage equality to the state’s same-sex couples. Derek McCoy, chair of the Maryland Marriage Alliance which opposes Question 6, also issued a statement expressing his “complete dismay” over placing McCaskill on paid administrative leave. The Washington Blade’s Lou Chibbaro notes that these statements “marked a rare turn of events that placed the two opposing leaders and their organizations in agreement over McCaskill’s situation.”

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.

Legislator Writes to Boss of Equality Advocate: Shut Him Up!

Rob Tisinai

September 7th, 2012

In an astonishing assault on freedom of speech, Democratic state legislator Emmett Burns wrote to a man’s employer and asked him to shut the man up and shut the man down for advocating marriage equality.

Really. Burns wrote to Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens football team:

I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.I believe Mr. Ayanbadejo should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.

I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.

Please give me your immediate response.

The second paragraph stuns me. Somehow, though, the last sentence’s commanding tone makes the whole thing even more chilling.  Just to recap:

This is a state legislator…writing on official Maryland House of Delegates letterhead..to a man’s boss…asking him to shut down his employee’s free speech.

It would be bad enough if Burns had applied pressure directly to Ayanbadejo. But going through his boss? Can you imagine if state legislators starting calling your employer — or worse, writing them on official letterhead — demanding that you stop exercising your First Amendment rights? That’s abuse on top of abuse.

This is at least as bad as when a Chicago alderman tried to block a Chik-fil-a store because he didn’t like the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. (I was away at the time, without Internet access, so let me state for the record: the alderman was an ass). To me, though, this seems worse, because contra Romney and the current Supreme Court, a corporation is not a person, and the power gap between an city alderman and multibillion-dollar corporation is not as frightening as the one between a state legislator and a private citizen.

Should Burns should resign over this? At the very least, he should sit barefoot on Ayanbadejo’s doorstep for three days, wearing a hairshirt, forgoing food and shelter, until Ayanbadejo accepts his apology. Burns is a public servant — we use that language for a reason — and his first duty to protect our rights.  He’s abused his power, demonstrated his incompetence, and violated his oath of office.

Also, like so many of our opponents, he spouts nonsense even though Google is just a keyboard away. “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.” Really? Here are a few players I’d like him to meet.

Emmett Burns’ mix of ignorance and arrogance is all too common among our opponents. No surprise, though: each one breeds the other in a falling spiral of self-righteous egomania. I suppose I can take comfort in one thing. The National Organization for Marriage, a group that trumpets its principled support for liberty and opposition to government overreach, will be quick and fierce in its denunciation of this legislator.

Right?