Gay Marriage and Intolerance

Perhaps the best most effective argument opponents of gay marriage (which I support) have [which, I’ve since read, is the focus of their current campaign in Maine] is that once gay marriage becomes institutionalized, people who still oppose it for religious and other reasons will be treated as pariahs and, even worse, will be treated as scofflaws who violate inevitable new antidiscrimination norms (and, more important, laws). With that in mind, stories like this don’t help the cause: “The chief diversity officer at Gallaudet University has been placed on paid leave after she signed a petition to put a gay marriage referendum on the ballot in Maryland…. Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz says McCaskill “participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate” for someone in her position.”

UPDATE: Putting aside the issue of whether one thinks people like McCaskill should be treated as pariahs and eventually be subject to penalties for violating antidiscrimination laws (like the wedding photographer in New Mexico who didn’t want to cover a gay wedding), it’s unhelpful. The vast majority of supporters of gay marriage over age forty were once against it; telling them that they weren’t just wrong but evil isn’t helpful. Nor is it helpful for attracting the “swing vote,” the 20% of so of Americans who support civil unions but not gay marriage. And finally, given that an important argument for gay marriage sounds in tolerance, it helps when its proponents show the same.

Some commenters are making the argument that as a “diversity” officer, McCaskill needs to meet an ideological litmus test. I think there are some circumstances where people’s expressed views can interfere with their jobs, but it’s not at all clear to me that this is one of them, especially given that (a) all McCaskill did was sign a ballot initiative petition; (b) there is no inherent connection between signing the petition and not providing support for gay students at Gaulludet–it would be different if she made anti-gay public remarks; and (c) “diversity” at Gaulludet could certainly be deemed to include support for those with minority religious/political sentiments at what I take it is a very left-wing campus. Is Gaulludet not sending a message that students and faculty with traditional religious views are not welcome, or at least are only welcome if they keep their positions well to themselves?

Further UPDATE: My friend Walter Olson, who has been very active in supporting same-sex marriage in Maryland, has a similar perspective. And he quotes a press release from Marylanders for Marriage Equality: “We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately. Everyone is entitled to free speech and to their own opinion about Question 6, which is about treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

And, an interesting biographical detail about McCaskill: she was the first deaf African-American woman to received a Ph.D. from Gallaudet.

One More UPDATE: “McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition came as a shock to the school’s LGBT students because she was a strong supporter of the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally (LGBTQA) Resource Center, which opened on National Coming Out day on Oct. 11, 2011.” So it doesn’t look like her (presumed) position on gay marriage reflects an animus toward gays, or interfered with her ability to do her job.