A university in Washington DC, has placed its Chief Diversity Officer on leave, after she reportedly signed a petition opposing equal marriage law in the state of Maryland.

Dr Angela McCaskill, currently serving as, associate provost of diversity and inclusion at Gallaudet University, was placed on paid administrative leave after she had signed a petition to put the decision on equal marriage to voters, in the state of Maryland.

The president of Gallaudet, Dr T Alan Hurwitz, released a statement on Wednesday confirming that she had been put on leave:

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Reports indicate that a faculty member lodged a complaint against Dr McCaskill after she was discovered to have signed the petition.

The Washington Blade also reports that they have a record of her signature on the petition.

Derek McCoy, chair of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, an anti-equal marriage group, released a statement:

“Dr McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition does not automatically declare her support for or against same-sex marriage. It merely indicates that she wants to see the decision made by the people and not the legislature. But if her employer is able to restrict her right to engage in the petition-gathering phase of democracy, are they also allowed to enter the voting booth and dictate how she votes?

“Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long list of attacks on individuals who express support for marriage as a union between one man and one woman. If such attacks can be made before same-sex marriage is law, how can homosexual activists in good faith say that religious liberties will not be attacked if Question 6 passes?”

Teddi Fishman, director of the International Centre for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, also commented on the issue:

“If a person is responsible for ensuring equal opportunities for students regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and that person goes on record as being opposed to equal opportunities for people based on their gender and sexual orientation, it certainly appears that there is some incongruity,

“I would feel comfortable saying, however, that if I were supervising Dr McCaskill, I would want to talk with her to make sure that her commitment to equal opportunity to all students does indeed extend to them all and to monitor the situation more carefully than I might have done had she not signed the anti-marriage petition.”

According to her biography on the Gallaudet website, Dr McCaskill was the first deaf African American female to earn a Ph.D. there, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland School for the Deaf, and has a lengthy résumé of positions held at the university, where she has worked for 23 years.

The Gallaudet University Twitter page says it is “the world’s only university where programs and services are designed for deaf & hard of hearing students.”