Last week, at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Angela McCaskill, was placed on administrative leave after it came to light that she had signed a petition at her church to put Question 6 on the ballot in her home state of Maryland. Question 6 is the initiative launched by the defenders of marriage, which, if it passes on November 6, will reverse the Maryland legislature’s recent enactment of a not-yet-in-force same-sex marriage law. [See update below.] The gay newspaper Washington Blade had acquired the list of signatures on the petition and published it, and an anonymous faculty member at Gallaudet had denounced McCaskill to her superiors, in true Stasi fashion. In a statement full of self-righteous wind and moral cowardice, Gallaudet’s President T. Alan 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. 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
Note that preciously arm’s-length characterization of what “some feel is inappropriate” political opinion on the part of someone responsible for “diversity.” Oh yes, “other individuals feel differently,” but we know whose feelings are privileged in situations like this.
To their credit, the editors of the Washington Post chide Mr. Hurwitz in an editorial today. (Whenever I read something this sensible in an unsigned Post editorial, I guess it must have been written by Charles Lane, whose arrival on the editorial board vastly improved its tone, lifting it above the level of the reflexive drivel at the New York Times.) Noting Dr. McCaskill’s record at Gallaudet as never showing the slightest anti-gay animus (quite the contrary, in fact), the Post‘s editors go on to make this telling point: “Proponents of same-sex marriage must persuade citizens who may have good-faith reservations. The surest way to repel voters—and to vitiate the marriage movement’s broader goals and values—would be to say, or even seem to say, ‘agree with us or else.’” They note that Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, who opposes Question 6, has called for McCaskill to have her job back, as have other opponents of the marriage-defending referendum.
But in Hurwitz’s rush to judge McCaskill, and to threaten her career, we see the main thrust of the movement for same-sex marriage. “Agree with us or else” is actually a central goal of that movement’s agenda, as advocate John Corvino admitted in his recent book with Maggie Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage (which I reviewed at Public Discourse). Once same-sex marriage is in place, the new moral norm of society is that dissent from the proposition that men can marry men and women can marry women is a self-declaration of one’s bigotry, of one’s status as a “hater” and an enemy of justice. It is to be equated with racist opposition to interracial marriage, and the only space to be made for the age-old understanding of marriage–for now anyway–is that no churches or clergy will be forced to solemnize same-sex unions.
It’s understandable that “agree with us or else” is not the message that same-sex marriage advocates want to send before a referendum on which their hopes are pinned. But it is assuredly the message that will be delivered good and hard afterward if they are victorious.
UPDATE: I thank Jesse, writer of the first comment below, for correcting me about the form of the Maryland ballot question. Although the defenders of traditional marriage petitioned for the popular referendum in order to overturn the Maryland same-sex marriage law, the form of the question is to ask voters whether they approve of the law, not whether they wish to reverse it. Hence a “No” vote defends the natural and historic understanding of marriage, while a “Yes” vote would redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.