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May 16, 2008

University of Toledo fires personnel executive for anti-gay article

Toledo--The University of Toledo administrator who claimed in a newspaper opinion piece that gay people can become straight and are not deserving of civil rights was fired by the school on May 8.

Crystal Dixon’s April 18 piece, published on the Toledo Free Press website, objected to an April 4 column by Free Press editor-in-chief Michael S. Miller entitled “Gay Rights and Wrongs.”

“As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner,” Dixon wrote, “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 evidenced by the growing population of P-FOX . . . and Exodus International.”

She went to cite the “divine order” and said that there are consequences for violating it.

Dixon was the assistant vice president of human resources for the university.

Employees of the school are covered by a year-old governor’s order barring sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. They also have domestic partner benefits, although these do not yet extend to employees of the Medical University of Ohio, which merged with UT in 2006. Dixon originally worked for the medical school.

In the uproar that followed, she was put on paid administrative leave by the university, and was given the opportunity on May 5 to speak in her defense.

“You also had the opportunity to respond to the concerns related to your ability to carry out the responsibilities in accordance with governing laws, policies, procedures and the mission of the University of Toledo,” reads her termination letter, posted on the Toledo Blade website.

“After reviewing the relevant evidence, mitigating factors and your statements from the pre-disciplinary meeting, it is my determination that there is just cause to terminate your employment with the University of Toledo,” wrote university president Dr. Lloyd A. Jacobs in the letter. “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.”

“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,” he asserts. “The result is a loss of confidence in you as an administrator.”

Dixon was given the option of taking a demotion and a pay reduction at the May 5 hearing, which she declined. Her university position paid $134,383 annually.

Dixon said she will file suit for violation of her freedom of speech, and for religious and racial discrimination.

Equality Toledo, the area’s LGBT equal rights organization, addressed her claims in their latest newsletter.

“Do not be fooled. This was not a matter of ‘free’ speech,” the email reads. “Rather, the question was whether her homophobic views prevented her from fulfilling her job duties and from furthering UT’s values and diversity plan.”

Michelle Stecker, Equality Toledo’s interim executive director, is an alumnus of the University of Toledo law school.

“For me, the reason why it’s newsworthy now is that five or ten years ago, no one would have even cared about the homophobic rant,” she said of the original controversy. “Now that we have Equality Toledo, now that we have the political clout to name this rant as something that’s offensive and discriminatory and unacceptable, it’s exciting for us to claim this political power.”


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