Pounds: Ms. Dixon goes to WashingtonWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most interesting chapters in Toledo Free Press history may be headed to the United States Supreme Court.
Almost exactly five years ago, Toledo Free Press published a column by Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller, “Gay rights and wrongs,” that discussed discrepancies in domestic partner benefits following the University of Toledo’s merger with the Medical College of Ohio. “As a middle-aged, overweight white guy with graying facial hair, I am America’s ruling demographic, so the gay rights struggle is something I experience secondhand, like my black friends’ struggles and my wheelchair-bound friend’s struggles,” he wrote.
His lucid point was that discrimination is as alien to him as the power of flight; he can relate to being hated for a lot of things, but skin color, sexuality and physical handicap are not among them. In no way did Miller equate race, sexuality and physical challenges; there is no spectrum that can contain all those variations, is there?
Crystal Dixon soon sent in a letter, “Gay rights and wrongs: another perspective.” She identified herself by email as “Associate Vice President for Human Resources, University of Toledo and Elder/Minister, End Time Christian Fellowship, Toledo.”
“I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims’,” she wrote. “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. …
“God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order.”
Soon after the publication of Dixon’s letter, UT President Lloyd Jacobs sent a statement to Toledo Free Press that said, “[Dixon’s] comments do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo. It is necessary, therefore, for me to repudiate much of her writing and to make this attempt to clarify our values system.”
Dixon was fired, leading to a court case, dismissals and appeals that continue to this day.
Robert Muise, American Freedom Law Center attorney, recently told One NewsNow that Dixon was punished by UT for holding “traditional religious beliefs.”
“Muise and the American Freedom Law Center filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court last month on behalf of Dixon. Muise says a public university has fired a Christian from a management position ‘because their beliefs and values do not comport with the so-called diversity at the university.’ He says Dixon’s case could set a precedent for government employees because lower courts have been divided over such free-speech cases.”
Miller and I have maintained that while Dixon’s views on gay people are repulsive, she had every right to express those views under America’s laws.
I also believe that UT had every right to terminate her employment and Dixon should have accepted that as the consequence of speaking out while serving in a position that presumably demands tolerance.
Miller disagrees, saying, “I know there are many shades of gray to this conversation, but the simplest reduction is this: Dixon was fired for expressing her opinion. That’s not supposed to happen in America. That the punishment was doled out by a university makes it that much more offensive. How many UT employees are going to rush to send letters or comments on controversial topics? The effect of the Dixon firing is a chilling of free speech rights. We can argue about common sense and employee loyalty and all the nuances of this case, but to reiterate, someone was fired for speaking her mind, and how can exceptions be made to free speech? Dixon did not yell ‘fire’ in a crowded gay bathhouse, she expressed her mostly religious-based beliefs in a guest column. Dixon voluntarily took a stand in a newspaper and has paid a terrible price.”
With the case potentially in the U.S. Supreme Court, this is a conversation that will continue on; as we know firsthand, the wheels of justice can turn incredibly slowly.
That Dixon still has avenues to pursue her claim proves the notion that her free speech rights have many avenues of protection, even if the ultimate outcome for her does not change.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.