Politics & Policy

The New Blacklist

Some proponents of gay marriage would rather intimidate their critics than debate them.

Angela McCaskill was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. She has now worked at Gallaudet for over 20 years, and in January 2011 she was named its chief diversity officer. Last year, she helped open a resource center for sexual minorities on campus. But she has now been placed on leave because of pressure from some students and faculty. Her job is on the line.

McCaskill’s sin? She was one of 200,000 people to sign a petition demanding a referendum on a law recognizing gay marriage, which was signed by Maryland’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley, in March. The referendum will be on the ballot next month, and the vote is expected to be close.

McCaskill’s signature became public when the Washington Blade posted a database online “outing” all those who had signed the petition. Even though her signature indicated only that she wanted the decision on gay marriage to be made by the people and not by the legislature and the governor, her critics declared that it demonstrated “bias.”

Gallaudet University’s president, T. Alan Hurwitz, announced that he was putting McCaskill on paid leave because “some feel it is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer” to have signed such a petition. “I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps,” said Hurwitz, “taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university.” Just last year, Hurwitz had praised McCaskill as “a longtime devoted advocate of social justice and equity causes.” But she is apparently not allowed to have private political views.

Hollywood has spent more than half a century railing against the anti-Communist blacklists of the Forties and Fifties that prevented some people from working in the movie industry. Woody Allen, George Clooney, and countless other celebrities have produced films purporting to show how evil the blacklist was and upbraiding those who were silent while it was imposed.

Well, a blacklist is being imposed in Maryland right now, and few are questioning it. The same thing happened in California four years ago, after that state’s voters approved Proposition 8, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Many activists hounded anyone who had supported the measure.

Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, the state’s largest nonprofit performing-arts company, donated $1,000 to the “Yes on 8” campaign. Protests from the composer of the Broadway musical Hairspray and many other show-business people soon forced him to resign.

Similarly, Los Angeles Film Festival director Richard Raddon was forced to step down after it was revealed that he had donated $1,500 to “Yes on 8.” The festival’s organizer put out a statement saying, “Our organization does not police the personal, religious or political choices of any employee, member or filmmaker.” Behind the scenes, however, many of the festival’s board members pressured Mr. Raddon to resign. “From now on, no one in entertainment will feel safe making a donation as measly as $100 to a conservative defense-of-marriage campaign,” mourned Brent Bozell, head of the conservative Media Research Center.

Nor is the modern-day blacklist confined to the entertainment industry. Marjorie Christoffersen, manager of the famous Los Angeles restaurant El Coyote, resigned after El Coyote was subjected to a month of boycotts and demonstrations because she had contributed $100 to the campaign against gay marriage. Christoffersen, who had been with El Coyote for 26 years, insisted her stance had nothing to do with prejudice against gays, but rather was rooted in her Mormon faith. That didn’t impress the blacklisters. Fellow employees at El Coyote vouched for her kindness to gay employees, including personally paying for the mother of an employee who had died of AIDS to fly to Los Angeles to attend his funeral. That didn’t matter either. And neither did the fact that El Coyote sent $10,000 to gay groups to “make up” for Ms. Christoffersen’s contribution. The boycott continued, and the slowdown in business forced Ms. Christoffersen to leave.

The hysteria prompted some gays to speak out. Charles Karel Bouley, a former columnist for the gay publication The Advocate, pointed out to fellow gays in 2008 that “Barack Obama said marriage was between a man and a woman at a time when we needed his voice on our side about equality. He let us down, too, remember, and many of you still gave him a job.”

At least the old Hollywood blacklist targeted those who either professed Communist sympathies or refused to sign loyalty oaths. As columnist Maggie Gallagher pointed out during the furor over Proposition 8, “Targeting an entire business because one person associated with it made (in their personal capacity) a donation to a cause is brand new.” Some gay activists are one step away from claiming that if someone disagrees with them, they shouldn’t be allowed to work anywhere. The original Hollywood blacklist never went that far, but you won’t see any movies made about the current intolerance of supporters of traditional marriage.

Liberals claim to favor open and honest debate in the democratic process, but when it comes to gay marriage it appears some proponents would rather intimidate their critics. In 2009, writing about Proposition 8, I talked with Bruce Chapman, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau who is now with the Discovery Institute. He told me the publication of the names of people who sign petitions in support of traditional marriage could “chill democracy.” “We don’t make the votes of people public, we don’t make how jurors vote public, and we keep Census data private for 70 years,” he said. “Maybe the initiative and referendum petitions from now on should have a ‘warning’ label on them that says, ‘Signing this list is a political activity and can result in publication of your name.’ After all, ordinary people are now advised that their privacy is to be set aside in the same way that politicians’ privacy was set aside years ago.”

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.


The Latest