The nation's leading university for the deaf and hard of hearing has reinstated its chief diversity officer, who was suspended for three months after signing a petition circulated by opponents of gay marriage in Maryland.
Gallaudet University president T. Alan Hurwitz announced the reinstatement of Angela McCaskill in an email Monday to students, faculty and staff. The brief statement didn't elaborate on the reasons for McCaskill's reinstatement, and university officials declined further comment.
Gallaudet is home to a prominent gay and lesbian community, and many on campus had said they were concerned that McCaskill was the wrong person to lead an office that promotes diversity.
But people on both sides of the gay marriage debate in Maryland, where McCaskill lives, had said she shouldn't be punished for exercising her First Amendment rights. The conservative Family Research Council was critical of Gallaudet, saying the university did not tolerate diverse points of view.
McCaskill has said she is not anti-gay. She said she signed the petition at her church after listening to a sermon about marriage, adding that she felt it was important for Maryland voters to decide the issue.
McCaskill was placed on leave in October after administrators became aware that she had signed the petition. On Monday, her attorney did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.
Voters upheld the law in November as Maryland joined Maine and Washington state as the first states where gay marriage was approved via popular vote. Same-sex couples began marrying in Maryland earlier this month.
The move ignited passionate debate on a campus that's known for activism, with some comparing the uproar over McCaskill to the 2006 protests over the appointment of an unpopular provost as university president.
In his statement, Hurwitz thanked those who had expressed their opinions about McCaskill and his response to the issue.
"This has been a period of reflection for all of us," Hurwitz said. "I am deeply appreciative of the time you have taken to communicate your views, of the clearly heartfelt manner in which you have expressed those thoughts, and of the overall maturity you have shown in your willingness to consider the differing views others may hold.
"The work of the university's Office of Diversity and Inclusion is vital and must continue in an active and vibrant way. I personally look forward to working with Dr. McCaskill on the work of that office."
Established in 1864 by an act of Congress, Gallaudet remains the nation's only liberal-arts university with programs designed specifically for the deaf.
By BEN NUCKOLS Associated Press
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