Gallaudet President Welcomes Reinstatement of Woman Who Signed Marriage Petition

A Gallaudet University official who was put on leave for signing a petition to hold a referendum on marriage definition will be reinstated by the academic institution.

Dr. Angela McCaskill, chief diversity officer at Gallaudet and the first deaf African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. at the University, was told that she is welcomed to return to her position. In a statement released on Tuesday, Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz said that McCaskill could return to the university as chief diversity officer.

"I am sending this communication to indicate 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," said Hurwitz.

"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."

After Maryland became the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage, traditional marriage supporters collected signatures to place the new law on the November ballot. McCaskill was one of the estimated 110,000 signatories.

Upon learning of her signing the petition, Gallaudet president Hurwitz announced last week that McCaskill would be put on paid leave, with the expectation that someone would replace her as chief diversity officer.

The backlash directed at the university came from both sides of the marriage definition debate. In a statement, Derek McCoy, chairman of The Maryland Marriage Alliance, denounced the decision.

"I join an ever-growing number of Marylanders in expressing my complete dismay over Gallaudet University's decision to place Dr. Angela McCaskill on administrative leave for signing the marriage referendum petition," said McCoy.

The editorial board of The Washington Post, known for its support for same-sex marriage, referred to the university's move as a "mistake."

"Firing, or threatening to fire, a diversity officer for off-campus political activity strikes us as inconsistent with 'open sharing of thoughts and ideas'," wrote the Post's board. "After all, if Ms. McCaskill does oppose gay marriage, then she holds the same view that President Obama did, at least publicly, until five months ago. Would he have been unfit to serve as a diversity officer at Gallaudet?"

McCaskill held a press conference on Tuesday in Annapolis in response to the statement by Hurwitz that she could return to her position at Gallaudet. She stated that she was deeply hurt by the experience.

"I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated … They have attempted to intimidate me and tarnish my reputation," said McCaskill.

"I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance, a university that manages by intimidation, a university that allows bullying among faculty, staff and students."

J. Wydal Gordon, the attorney for McCaskill, told those gathered at the press conference that McCaskill will demand compensation for damages suffered over the incident.

Ironically, according to The Washington Post, before being revealed as a signatory for the referendum in Maryland, McCaskill was most known on the Gallaudet campus as the one who helped open a new resource center for LGBT students.

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