The administration of Gallaudet University caught some very vocal criticism Thursday from both sides of the gay marriage debate in Maryland.
Earlier this month, the university suspended its chief diversity officer after hearing complaints from some in the campus community that Dr. Angela McCaskill had signed one of the petitions that authorize Maryland voters to decide whether gay marriage should be legal.
Around lunch time, about two dozen proponents of traditional marriage gathered near one of the university's gates. Some in that crowd carried signs calling for the immediate reinstatement of the 23-year employee of Gallaudet.
"Angela McCaskill has a right under the U.S. Constitution to sign any petition anywhere in this country and not get punished for it," thundered the Rev. Anthony Evans of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
The arguments were remarkably similar from the "marriage equality" crowd of about three dozen people who gathered at another university entrance.
"All Dr. McCaskill did was exercise her right (under the Maryland State Constitution) ... she exercised her civic duty," declared the Rev. Delman Coates of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md. "And as a consequence, she encountered professional reprisal. We believe that's a major injustice."
Among Gallaudet students, some feel the quick suspension was wrong.
"I think they should have met with the people that were concerned, and had a dialogue with them first," said Gallaudet senior Richard Dahn. "I do believe suspending her happened too quickly."
Others question the judgment of the chief diversity officer. Johanna Martin, a member of the Gallaudet Rainbow Society told us, "[McCaskill] should be careful, [because] it seems it's a conflict of interest. She should probably have been impartial on this."
When a reporter, through a sign language interpreter, asked a group of about a dozen Gallaudet students (who had gathered at the university's gates to watch the demonstrations) to raise a hand if they felt the university was wrong in it's decision to suspend Dr. McCaskill, only one student raised his hand.
In a statement, the university pointed out that the suspension is with pay, that attorneys for Gallaudet are talking with attorneys for Dr. McCaskill, and that administrators are talking with various parts of the campus community about the controversy.
McCaskill's attorneys confirm that talks are happening, but they also say their client has been harmed by the suspension, which continues.