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December 5, 2008

U. Toledo official, fired for anti-gay screed, sues school

Toledo--A former University of Toledo administrator who was fired after publishing an anti-gay screed in a local newspaper has made good on her threats to sue over her dismissal.

Univeristy officials said that Crystal Dixon’s op-ed in the Toledo Free Press contradicted the school’s policies when they fired her last spring.

Dixon filed suit in United States District Court in Toledo on December 1, arguing that her termination violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. She alleges that punishing her for her private political speech violated her constitutional right to freedom of speech, and that her due process rights were violated because the university denied her a forum for her opinions.

The university pointed out at the time of her suspension, and eventual dismissal in May, that her name was closely associated with her position as associate vice president for human resources, and her opinion piece went against school policy on LGBT rights.

Dixon is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was started by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza. The organization champions religious conservative ideals in court, and has pushed for abortion bans, “intelligent design” education, and other far-right and anti-gay causes.

“I hope that the University of Toledo sticks up for what they decided a long time ago and takes the side of what's right instead of following something that they know is wrong,” said Equality Toledo executive director Jon Borland.

Dixon’s article, published in the paper’s April 18 online edition, was a response to editor-in-chief Michael S. Miller’s April 4 column, “Gay Rights and Wrongs,” lamenting Ohio’s poor record on LGBT equality. Miller pointed to his friendships with gay men and lesbians as impetus for his open-mindedness and noted the economic benefits of LGBT-affirming laws.

In her response, Dixon took umbrage at LGBT issues being framed as civil rights, arguing that she was born black and cannot change her race but that gay men and lesbians, through “ex-gay” groups, can “make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle.”

 “I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended,” Dixon wrote.

“I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims,’ ” Dixon’s article stated. “I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman.”

She also cited “divine order” and talked about the consequences of violating it.

“Ex-gay” groups, and the idea that sexual orientation is a choice that can be willfully changed, have been widely discredited.

Michelle Stecker, then the interim director of Equality Toledo, called the piece “outrageous and defamatory.”

Four days after Stecker sent out an action alert about Dixon’s article, the Toledo Free Press published University of Toledo president Lloyd A. Jacobs’ response, which repudiated Dixon’s statements.

Dixon was giving a chance to speak in her defense on May 5, and was offered a demotion and pay cut, which she declined. Her position as associate vice president of human resources paid $134,383 a year.

Three days later, she was terminated.

Her termination letter was given to the Toledo Blade, which posted it online.

“The public position you have taken in the Toledo Free Press is in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures as well as the Core Values of the Strategic Plan which is mission critical,” the letter read. “Your position also calls into question your continued ability to lead a critical function within the administration as personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as Associate Vice President for Human Resources could be challenged or placed at risk. The result is a loss of confidence in you as an administrator.”

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