The suspension of a senior Gallaudet University administrator who signed the petition that prompted a referendum on Marylandâ€™s same-sex marriage law sparked outrage a little more than a month before Election Day.
Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz on Oct. 10 announced he had placed Dr. Angela McCaskill, who is the D.C. schoolâ€™s chief diversity officer, on paid administrative leave after two lesbian faculty members filed a complaint after they discovered she signed the petition. McCaskill, who has been in her current position since Jan. 2011, identified the women as Martina â€śMJâ€ť Bienvenu and Kendra Smith during an Oct. 17 press conference in Annapolis.
â€śI was shocked, hurt, insulted,â€ť she said through an interpreter, stressing Hurwitz had sought to punish her for her decision to sign the same-sex marriage referendum petition as a private citizen. â€śThey have attempted to intimidate me and tarnish my reputation.â€ť
Same-sex marriage opponents immediately sought to highlight McCaskillâ€™s suspension as an example of the consequences those who oppose nuptials for gays and lesbians could face if voters upheld the law that Gov. Martin Oâ€™Malley signed in March â€” the Maryland Marriage Alliance launched an ad that featured McCaskill. Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which backed the same-sex marriage law, and the governor also criticized her suspension.
Clergy on both sides of the issue spoke out against the universityâ€™s decision to place McCaskill on administrative leave.
â€śIt is unacceptable for Dr. McCaskill to be professionally sanctioned for merely exercising her right as a citizen in our democracy,â€ť Revs. DontĂ© Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince Georgeâ€™s County, who both endorsed the same-sex marriage law, said in a joint statement that announced they were to hold weekly protests outside Gallaudet to urge administrators to reinstate McCaskill. â€śOur advocacy for marriage equality is about protecting the rights of all people, gays and lesbians, as well as those who may have a traditional view of marriage.â€ť