- (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
A conservative law firm representing a woman who was fired from a university position over an opinion column criticizing homosexuality has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The American Freedom Law Center filed a petition for writ of certiorari on Tuesday to the highest court in the United States on behalf of Crystal Dixon. "Petitioner did not occupy a political position, nor did she publicly criticize her employer or any identified policy of her employer in her writing," reads the petition.
"Rather, Petitioner was fired for expressing her personal religious beliefs in a local newspaper on a controversial public issue: whether it is legitimate to compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans with those struggling to promote gay rights, an issue about which Petitioner, an African American, is uniquely qualified to address."
Robert Muise, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel who authored the petition to the court on behalf of Dixon, said in a statement that it was a matter regarding freedom of religious dissent.
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion," said Muise.
"As a result of [the university's] speech restriction, that 'fixed star' in our constitutional constellation has been obscured and an official orthodoxy prescribed in direct violation of the First Amendment."
In April 2008, Dixon wrote a rebuttal to a column published in the Toledo Free Press comparing the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to the modern gay rights movement.
"As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are 'civil rights victims,'" wrote Dixon.
"I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended."
Dixon, then serving as interim associate vice president for human resources at Toledo, was fired after a hearing by university officials over her views on the hot-button issue.
Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, wrote a response to Dixon's column, stating that her remarks "do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo."
"The University of Toledo welcomes, supports and places value upon persons of every variety. Disability, race, age or sexual orientation are not included in any decision making process nor the evaluation of worth of any individual at this university," wrote Jacobs.
In response to the much publicized firing, Dixon sued the university. In December 2012, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Dixon. The panel argued that the university had a right to fire Dixon over her views since they were in conflict with the academic institution's mission statement.
"In writing her op-ed column, Dixon not only spoke on policy issues, but also spoke on policy issues related directly to her position at the university," wrote the panel.
Immediately following the decision the AFLC appealed to the en banc of the Sixth Circuit. However, in late February this request was denied.
Every year, the U.S. Supreme Court receives hundreds of appeals requests and selects only a few to hear the arguments for and against.