A petition has been started to reinstate a senior administrator at a Washington-based university who was put on paid leave, after she signed a petition to send equal marriage to referendum in Maryland.

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

The petition urging the university to reinstate the chief diversity officer, featured on the homepage of the Family Research Council, and the Washington Post reported that by noon on Friday, it contained 15,000 signatures.

Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, and the equal marriage advocacy group, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, called for Dr McCaskill to be reinstated. Josh Levin, campaign manager at the group said:

“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.”

President of the FRC, Tony Perkins, released a statement on the issue, and went so far as to say that the university President, Dr T Alan Hurwitz, should lose his job. Perkins said:

“Gallaudet University’s action underscores that far more is at stake in redefining marriage than two people walking down the aisle.”

He also suggested that if equal marriage becomes law, he expects discrimination against those opposed to the bill.

Derek McCoy, chairman of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said that the move towards equal marriage woud marginalise those opposed to it.

“She was at Gallaudet for 23 years,” he said. “Every day she was performing her duty with integrity. Then, when they find out she signed a referendum, all of a sudden she’s incapable of doing her job. It’s incredible

Dr McCaskill had been suspened on Wednesday, and the President of Gallaudet, Dr T Alan Hurwitz, had released a statement:

“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.”

A pastor at Reid Temple AME Church, a large, Lee P. Washington, backed the petition to have Dr McCaskill reinstated. He said that after her name was discovered on the petition and she was put on leave, she and her family had been subject to “threats and intimidation.”

Others have suggested that, because of the public nature of the petition, it was inappropriate for Dr McCaskill for her to show her support that way. Teddi Fishman, director of the International Centre for Academic Integrity at Clemson University made a statement on Wednesday:

“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.”

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.