Gallaudet University would like to work with its chief diversity officer, who was put on leave after signing a petition to reverse Maryland's same-sex marriage law, so she can return to her post, its president said Tuesday.
Dr. Angela McCaskill asked to be reinstated later Tuesday at a press conference. She also denounced the university for allegedly allowing bullying and accused it of being an institution that "manages by intimidation," NBC Washington reported.
McCaskill signed the petition at her church after her preacher spoke against gay marriage, the Planet DeafQueer blog reported last week, citing a Gallaudet faculty member who first spotted the administrator’s name on the document. Voters in Maryland will decide on Nov. 6 whether to keep a state law passed earlier this year approving same-sex marriage.
University President T. Alan Hurwitz said he had placed McCaskill on administrative leave as a "prudent action" to allow her and the university "time to consider this question after the emotions of first reactions subsided."
"As many know, Dr. McCaskill exercised her right to sign a petition concerning legislation on gay marriage. Because of her position at Gallaudet as our chief diversity officer, many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action," he said in a statement. "They wanted to know 'does that action interfere with her ability to perform her job?'"
Hurwitz said he wanted to "indicate forcefully" that the university would like to work with McCaskill to "enable her to return to the community from her administrative leave."
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"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," he added.
McCaskill, who is deaf, told reporters through a sign-language interpreter that she blamed the university and a same-sex couple for the fallout, according to NBC Washington.
“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,” she said in Annapolis, Md. “No one has the right to decide what my signature meant.”
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McCaskill was the first deaf African American female to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, where she has worked for 23 years in various roles, including becoming the deputy to the president and associate provost of diversity and inclusion in 2011, according to her biography on the university website.
McCaskill's attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, told NBC News that his client wasn't anti-gay. He also said her signing the petition was intended to have the matter decided at the ballot box and to allow voters to become more informed on the issue.
"It’s encouraging that they evolved in this situation, as President Obama would say, and we look forward to speaking to them to determine whether or not they are sincere," he said.
A Baltimore Sun poll last month found that Maryland voters favored legalizing same-sex marriage, 49 percent to 39 percent. The survey of 804 likely voters was conducted from Sept. 25 to 27 by research firm OpinionWorks. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.
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