By Maria Wiering
“To express a desire that marriage is and should remain a union between one man and one woman is not hate speech,” Maryland Catholic Conference Executive Director Mary Ellen Russell said Oct. 11 in response to a Washington, D.C.-based university’s recent decision to sanction its chief diversity officer for signing a petition to bring Maryland’s same-sex marriage law to public referendum.
“To believe that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to society and the most beneficial way of raising children is not a bigoted position. Or at least hasn’t been until now,” she told the Catholic Review via e-mail.
Angela McCaskill was reportedly among more than 160,000 signatories for a petition to put Maryland’s law legalizing same-sex marriage on the Nov. 6 ballot for referendum.
The MCC, which advocates for public policy on behalf of the state’s bishops, helped to gather signatures as part of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a coalition of organizations working to overturn the law. The number of certified signatures collected far surpassed the 56,000 needed to place the measure on the ballot.
“If Marylanders do not repeal the same-sex marriage law by voting against Question 6, what happened to Dr. Angela McCaskill is just a taste of what will happen to religious institutions, ministries, businesses and other individuals,” Russell said.
Gallaudet University president T. Alan Hurwitz released a statement to the university community Oct. 10 informing them that McCaskill was placed on paid administrative leave.
“It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer; however, other individuals feel differently,” he said. “I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim chief diversity officer will be announced in the near future.”
McCaskill has worked 23 years for the university, which serves people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Hurwitz appointed her to her most recent position in January 2011.
“Dr. McCaskill is uniquely qualified to assume this position, based on her education, knowledge and experience,” Hurwitz said at the time. “I have every confidence that she is the right person to help Gallaudet achieve its goal of creating a campus climate that is accepting and respectful of every member of our community.”
According to the university, McCaskill was the first deaf African American woman to earn a Ph. D. from Gallaudet.
Derek McCoy, Maryland Marriage Alliance chairman, said in a statement that he was in “complete dismay” over the decision.
“Quite simply, it was well within her rights to sign the petition. And furthermore, it is the responsibility of all American citizens to be engaged in the electoral process,” he said.
“Dr. McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition does not automatically declare her support for or against same-sex marriage,” he added. “It merely indicates that she wants to see the decision made by the people and not the Legislature. But if her employer is able to restrict her right to engage in the petition-gathering process phase of democracy, are they also allowed to enter the voting booth and dictate how she votes?”
The names and addresses of petition signers were made public and searchable in July by the Washington Blade, a publication that covers the gay community.
A spokesperson for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which supports legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, said the organization also opposes Gallaudet’s decision.
Copyright (c) Oct. 11, 2012 CatholicReview.org