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Angela McCaskill signs during her press conference Tuesday.
Associated Press/Photo by Brian Witte
Angela McCaskill signs during her press conference Tuesday.

Pro-democracy punishment

Marriage | Gallaudet University administrator speaks out about the controversy surrounding her signing a petition calling for a same-sex ‘marriage’ referendum in Maryland

WASHINGTON—Traditional marriage advocates in Maryland have long maintained the state’s new same-sex “marriage” law would infringe on the rights of those who disagree with it. The law may not be in effect, but it is already having an effect. 

One week after she was placed on paid leave for signing a petition to have Maryland’s new gay “marriage” law go before voters as a referendum, Gallaudet University’s Angela McCaskill held a press conference Tuesday to express her outrage with the school. She said Gallaudet, the nation’s premiere school for the deaf, owes her compensation for tarnishing her reputation.

“This has been a tremendously horrific time for myself and my family,” said McCaskill, who is deaf, through an interpreter. 

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Just hours before McCaskill spoke, Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz released a statement saying he wants to work with McCaskill “to respond to the concerns that have been raised,” but added that putting her on paid leave last week was a “prudent action.” 

Deana Bass, spokeswoman for the Maryland Marriage Alliance, strongly disagreed. “There is absolutely nothing prudent about stripping people of their right to engage in the democratic process,” she told me. “This is what we’ve been saying for months would happen. It is frightening to think someone would be penalized for expressing their deeply held beliefs.”

In this case, McCaskill has yet to even express her opinion on same-sex “marriage.” The petition she signed—along with 200,000 other Marylanders—only requests that the new law be placed on the November ballot and does not take a side on the issue. McCaskill said that makes her pro-democracy, not anti-gay.

“The fact that we’re having this conversation is insane,” Bass said. “Who she votes for, what she votes for is her private decision.”

McCaskill, the school’s chief diversity officer, is the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Gallaudet and has worked at the school for 23 years.

The university’s decision touched off a firestorm of controversy in local, national, and social media circles. McCaskill received support from organizations on both sides of the same-sex “marriage” issue and from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who pushed the law through the Maryland State Assembly by one vote earlier this year. 

Even The Washington Post in an editorial urged the school to reconsider: “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?”

Gallaudet, founded in 1864, has 1,873 students enrolled this semester at its campus in northeast Washington, D.C.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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