Gallaudet University is catching a fair bit of criticism after the federally-chartered college placed Dr. Angela McCaskill, its chief diversity officer, on paid leave. The decision was made after it came to officials’ attention that the administrator reportedly supported a controversial referendum that challenges Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

Now, in an unlikely fit of agreement, both conservatives who agree with McCaskill’s stance and gay rights groups who oppose her views are coming to the academic’s defense.

The effort she signed onto constitutes a successful move to get Maryland’s recently-passed gay marriage law on the November ballot. According to The Christian Post, sources are claiming that McCaskill signed the petition back in July, while worshipping at church.

After an anonymous Gallaudet faculty member discovered the administrator’s name on the petition, a complaint was launched and the university decided to take action. On Wednesday, the school, which serves the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C., announced that McCaskill would immediately be put on paid leave.

Gallaudet University Put Dr. Angela McCaskill for Opposing Gay Marriage

A screen shot from Gallaudet University's web site

While the decision is sparking controversy, the university is claiming that, considering her position as chief diversity officer, some feel that her petition participation wasn’t appropriate.

“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,” Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz proclaimed.

Hurwitz went on to say that he will assess the situation and subsequently make a decision about her continued employment at the university.

“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,” he continued.

Surprisingly, both supporters of gay marriage — and opponents — are coming to McCaskill’s defense, citing free speech as their central reasoning.

“I join an ever-growing number of Marylanders in expressing my complete dismay over Gallaudet University’s decision to place Dr. Angela McCaskill on administrative leave for signing the marriage referendum petition,” proclaimed Derek McCoy, chair of The Maryland Marriage Alliance – a group supporting traditional marriage.

See the university showering accolades on McCaskill in the video from 2011, below:

Some gay marriage proponents, too, seemed equally disturbed by the development. Josh Levin of the group Marylanders for Marriage Equality voiced strong opposition to Gallaudet’s actions.

“We strongly disagree with the decision to put the chief diversity officer on leave and hope she is reinstated immediately,” he 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.”

As the Post notes, McCaskill is a coveted employee with a fascinating — and personal — history at the university. She was the first deaf African American woman to earn a PhD from the school and she has worked at the institution for the past 23 years.

(H/T: Christian Post)