Leaders on both sides of the Maryland fight over same-sex marriage are urging Gallaudet University to reinstate an employee who was suspended because she signed a petition in favor of traditional marriage.
Angela McCaskill, the D.C. university's associate provost of diversity and inclusion, was placed on paid administrative this week after school officials discovered that she supported the petition, which was circulated last spring and signed by more than 200,000 Marylanders.
The signatures were enough to force a November referendum on a state law passed in February to legalize same-sex marriage.
Anti-gay-marriage groups have accused the university of discriminating against Ms. McCaskill and stifling her views. They have been joined by the state's leading pro-gay-marriage group, which is calling her suspension an affront to the principles of inclusion and respect for others that they are trying to advocate.
"She should be reinstated," said Kevin Nix, spokesman for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which has led the campaign to legalize gay marriage. "Question 6 is about fairness and equality under the law, and it seems like the fair thing to do in this case is to reinstate her."
According to reports, a Gallaudet employee noticed Ms. McCaskill's name in a database of petition signers that was published in July by the Washington Blade and eventually reported the finding to university officials.
University President T. Alan Hurwitz said in a statement Wednesday that Ms. McCaskill, who lives in Maryland, was placed on leave become some people at the university felt that her signing was "inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer."
Mr. Hurwitz also acknowledged that some people oppose the decision and said he is still mulling the proper action going forward.
University officials declined to provide any additional comment on Thursday.
The suspension has added fuel to the argument from traditional-marriage groups who contend that gay marriage will lead the state down a slippery slope where people and organizations who oppose it for religious reasons will be forced to hide their views or act against them.
"If her employer is able to restrict her right to engage in the petition-gathering phase of democracy, are they also allowed to enter the voting booth and dictate how she votes?" asked the Rev. Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance.
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