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D.C. College Diversity Officer Suspended For Signing Marriage Referendum Petition

Dr. Angela McCaskill, a 23-year employee of Gallaudet University and the first deaf African-American woman it granted a Ph.D., will be seeking legal advice. The leave followed reports that she signed the referendum petition for Maryland's marriage equality bill.

Posted on October 10, 2012, at 2:41 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz suspended the school's chief diversity officer Wednesday after he was made aware that the diversity office, Dr. Angela McCaskill, had signed the marriage referendum petition in Maryland.

In a statement to staff and students of the D.C. university for the deaf and hard of hearing that was sent about noon today, Hurwitz said:

"I want to inform the community that I have placed Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid administrative leave effective immediately. 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."

Speaking with BuzzFeed, however, Gallaudet spokeswoman Catherine Murphy said, "We don't have a policy against political participation."

A man who identified himself as McCaskill's husband, reached by BuzzFeed, said that McCaskill would be consulting with a lawyer but had no comment at this time about being placed on leave.

Maryland's marriage equality bill was passed earlier this year, but opponents circulated a petition to subject the bill to a referendum vote this fall. The opponents received sufficient signatures, including an individual with McCaskill name and address, according to a document published by the Washington Blade, and the referendum is Question 6 on the November ballot.

The Planet DeafQueer blog published a story about McCaskill's signature on the petition on Monday, Oct. 8:

A Gallaudet faculty member, who at this time wishes to remain anonymous, noticed Dr. McCaskill’s name, address and signature on the anti-gay marriage petition and inquired about it. When confronted by the faculty member, Dr. McCaskill confirmed that she had in fact signed the petition and explained that she had done so while at church, after her preacher had preached against gay marriage. As she was leaving, her husband pointed to the petition and she signed it without giving it further thought.

According to her Gallaudet biography, McCaskill has worked at the D.C. college for 23 years in various capacities. On January 3, 2011, she was named deputy to the president and associate provost of diversity and inclusion. She also, according to her bio, was the first deaf African-American female to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet University.

Regarding the timing of her leave, first reported by ABC 7 News's Mike Conneen, Hurwitz said in the statement, "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 Explaining Her Role As Diversity Officer

View this video on YouTube

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.