If Dr. Angela McCaskill erred, it was in forgetting what kind of job she had.
As the "diversity officer" at a university, Dr. McCaskill is a modern zampolit. Ideological purity is at the heart of her job, alongside the politically confined definition of words like "diversity." So what possessed Dr. McCaskill to believe even for a moment that she could get away with indulging in actual diversity of opinion?
Dr. McCaskill is a diversity officer at Gallaudet University, a federally chartered and federally-entwined school for the deaf. This week she was suspended from her job for ideological noncompliance — for signing, at the urging of her pastor, while at church, a petition opposing Maryland's Civil Marriage Protection Act. Walter Olson of Overlawyered has a roundup of stories, both at his own site and at Maryland for all Families, where he is an advocate for equal marriage rights in Maryland and an vocal opponent of the anti-gay-marriage referendum that Dr. McCaskill supported by signing the petition. I applaud and support Walter's efforts to protect Maryland's new law permitting same-sex marriage, support same-sex marriage unequivocally, and was very proud that my co-blogger Patrick wrote a moving series about North Carolina's anti-gay-marriage Amendment One here at Popehat.
I agree with Walter that Dr. McCaskill's suspension represents a tremendous propaganda victory for anti-gay-marriage advocates:
We can now expect a loud outcry from gay-marriage opponents who have been scouring the horizon for exactly this kind of fact pattern — an ordinary person subjected to indefensible retaliation for taking their side — and may at last have found it.
More than that, it represents something very troubling. There's no indication whatsoever that Dr. McCaskill, in her role as diversity officer, was less than fully supportive of gay students. In fact:
"She's been a great ally to the LGBT community and supported many of the LGBTQA Resource Center's programs," said one student, who asked to remain anonymous. "I'm heart broken about this."
. . . .
“In her role as Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. McCaskill has made many advances for Deaf people of color, LGBT and other minorities at Gallaudet,” said a staff member who wishes to remain anonymous. "This situation is very disheartening for all of us."
But action is not enough, it seems. Some people seem eager to assume the very extreme and unbecoming position that right-wing anti-gay groups would like to attribute to them: you must not only act the way we want, but think and believe the way we want. Such people threaten not only freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, but the steady progress of the very freedoms for gay and lesbian Americans they purport to support. Fighting for your rights is strong. Petitioning to expand your rights is strong. But demanding that other people think and speak and vote in support of your rights, or face official sanctions from government-sponsored institutions, is a sign of weakness.
I hope that Dr. McCaskill gets swift and effective legal assistance from an appropriate source. As Walter hints, one thorny question is whether Gallaudet should be treated as a public institution for purposes of the First Amendment, given its federal entanglement. I regret that, given the current atmosphere at American universities, another thorny issue will be whether private ideological purity is a lawful job requirement. If she is permitted to return, it might be prudent for Dr. McCaskill to clarify her job requirements. I propose some questions:
1. Must a diversity officer privately support affirmative action, or may she agree with some challenges to it?
2. Must a diversity officer privately support university codes prohibiting "hate speech," or may she question them on First Amendment grounds?
3. There are many divergent opinions on the best way to regulate immigration in the United States. What opinion must a diversity officer hold privately?
4. May a diversity officer privately condemn female genital mutilation, or would that be anti-diverse?
5. Is it prohibited for a diversity officer to believe and espouse, privately, that the Americans with Disabilities act has been abused and should be amended?
Those are just a few questions. Once we accept that private ideology is a suitable subject for regulation, there will be many, many more.