Crystal Dixon sues UT for rights violationsWritten by Gail Burkhardt | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite losing her job, enduring emotional stress and filing a lawsuit for writing a controversial letter about gay rights to Toledo Free Press, Crystal Dixon said if she had the chance to go back, she would do it again.
In April, Dixon, former University of Toledo associate vice president of Human Resources, wrote a letter to Toledo Free Press Editor In Chief Michael S. Miller about her position on gay rights in response to Miller’s column on the topic.
“I believe that the viewpoint on that topic was very one-sided and that is why I submitted the letter,” Dixon said.
She said she believed that as a Christian she had the “divine right” to express her views. Dixon’s letter was published on the Toledo Free Press Web site April 9. Dixon was placed on paid administrative leave May 2, and sent a letter of termination May 8.
In her letter, Dixon wrote: “As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.’ Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle.”
Dixon said she has received many e-mails about her letter and her termination. Some have been in support of her views on homosexuality, while others have accused her of being intolerant. Many also have written about her right to free speech, including a few homosexuals, who told her that they did not agree with her views but believed that she had the right to express them. Dixon is suing the university, UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs and Vice President for Human Resources and Campus Safety William Logie, for violating her First and 14th amendment rights, said Thomas Sobecki, who is representing Dixon, along with the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC).
“She was fired because she gave an opinion the university perceived as contrary to what they believed in,” Sobecki said.
She wrote the letter as a private citizen and did not identify herself with the university, Dixon said. Being fired from the university for a letter that she wrote as a private citizen is a violation of her constitutional right to free speech, she said.
Dixon did not put her position with the university with her signature; however, after her signature she wrote, “If you need information about my occupation, etc., it is as follows: Associate Vice President for Human Resources, University of Toledo, Elder/Minister, End Time Christian Fellowship, Toledo, Ohio.”
Toledo Free Press policy is to publish only the name and hometown of writers of letters to the editor, Miller said. He said he did not want to go against policy and single out Dixon by publishing her position at the university.
Dixon was fired for her actions while “similarly situated people” at the university were not punished for giving their opinions to the press, said Brian Rooney, spokesman for TMLC.
In a Dec. 22, 2007 article in The Blade, former UT Vice Provost Carol Bresnahan said it was bigotry to oppose the City of Toledo’s domestic partner registry. The university did not punish Bresnahan, who has since moved for a promotion to provost for the College of New Jersey.
Dixon and her attorneys believe that Bresnahan’s speech can be compared to Dixon’s, but Bresnahan was not punished because UT shares her views.
“We have not yet seen the complaint, but once we do, we will review and respond to it appropriately. That said, we have asserted from the beginning that Ms. Dixon was in a position of special sensitivity as associate vice president for human resources and this issue is not about freedom of speech, but about her ability to perform that job given her statements in the Toledo Free Press,” said Lawrence Burns, vice president for external affairs, in a university statement about the suit. “We are convinced of the correctness of our position and will bring the facts to our defense in a court of law.”
Dixon received high employee evaluations and was promoted interim associate vice president of human resources to associate vice president. This shows that she is qualified for her job, Rooney said.
Jacobs wrote a May letter to Toledo Free Press in response to Dixon’s original letter.
In it, he defended UT’s core values, “diversity, integrity and teamwork,” and emphasized the university’s support and openness to the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community.
“Although I recognize it is common knowledge that Crystal Dixon is associate vice president for human resources at the University of Toledo, her comments do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo,” Jacobs wrote.
Dixon said she hopes the university will be prohibited from censuring any other employee’s right to free speech and that she will be reinstated to her position with dispensatory pay and damages.
“Gay Rights and Wrongs” by Michael S. Miller
“Gay Rights and Wrongs: Another Perspective” by Crystal Dixon
“UT Protects Gay Rights” by Dr. Lloyd Jacobs