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In Marriage Debate, Actions Speak Louder

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Proponents of same-sex marriage have attempted to reassure citizens that changing the meaning of marriage won't restrict the free-speech rights and religious freedom of those who oppose doing so.

However, that's not the message sent by Gallaudet University's suspension of a top administrator simply for signing a petition to put the contentious social question directly to the people of Maryland, one of four states where marriage is on the ballot in November.

The persecution of Angela McCaskill is just the latest telling indicator of the hostile climate surrounding those perceived as resisting efforts to redefine marriage.

McCaskill, Gallaudet's chief diversity officer, also is the first black, deaf woman to have received a doctorate from the federally chartered private university in Washington, D.C., for the deaf and hard of hearing. The well-regarded McCaskill had worked at Gallaudet for more than 20 years as of 2011, when she took the job. Her formal title: deputy to the president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion.

McCaskill championed the opening of a resource center for gay and lesbian students at Gallaudet, and her work has been described as "LGBT-supportive." Gallaudet president T. Alan Hurwitz praised her last year as "a longtime devoted advocate of social justice and equity causes."

But McCaskill's status as a model "diversity and inclusion" officer changed when the university discovered she had joined 200,000 other Marylanders in signing a petition to put to a referendum the state's new law allowing same-sex marriage. Her mere participation in the political process would come at the cost of her job and reputation.

She would be excluded, not included, by the intolerant forces of "tolerance."

On too many college campuses, "diversity" long has excluded diversity of thought. McCaskill's case reveals the repercussions individuals increasingly face for even the slightest deviation from the politically correct norm.

Her signature on the petition signifies nothing more than her belief that this was an appropriate issue to put before voters - that questions regarding the foundational institution of marriage are best reserved for the people of the state, not its legislature or courts.

In this sense, she and her fellow Marylanders are no different from the citizens of Maine, Minnesota and Washington, who supported similar ballot initiatives this year.

"I thought it was important that as a citizen of the state of Maryland, I could exercise my right to participate in the political process," McCaskill explained through a sign-language interpreter at a recent news conference. She signed the petition after a church service in which her pastor addressed the ballot initiative, she said, but has not publicly taken a position regarding same-sex marriage.

What followed was a chain of events eerily reminiscent of the intimidation and coercion faced by many supporters of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

McCaskill's action as a private citizen was made public when the Washington Blade, "the newspaper of record for the LGBT community," posted online the names, addresses and signatures of all who signed the Maryland petition. A Gallaudet colleague saw McCaskill's name and reported her to the university, asking for disciplinary action.

Hurwitz, Gallaudet's president, rushed headlong to comply. McCaskill was first asked to apologize for having signed the petition. When she refused, she was notified by e-mail that she would be put on administrative leave with pay until the university decided her fate.

"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," Hurwitz wrote in a statement posted to the university's website announcing her suspension.

The forces of tolerance, campus edition, felt the need to make an example of her. By its actions, Gallaudet has signaled that administrators, faculty and students with politically incorrect views are not welcome.

Most likely to feel the sting of the thought police are those whose views of marriage are informed by their faith commitments. Will bringing traditional ideas on marriage, family, life and faith to bear in the public square be treated as a "thought crime" on university campuses, in workplaces, by government officials?

The consequences of altering the definition of marriage are only dimly understood. McCaskill's experience sheds light on that prospective future. In the words of an adage: Actions speak louder than words.

- Dominique Ludvigson is a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

First moved by McClatchy News Tribune wire.

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