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Anti-Gay Article A ’Divine Mandate,’ Says Fired University Employee

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 15, 2008

A former HR official with the University of Toledo spoke out about the loss of her job following a newspaper item in which she wrote that gays and lesbians have no claim to the civil rights movement because they "choose" their sexuality.

Crystal Dixon, a longtime Human Resources employee with the University of Toledo, was fired due to the administration's concern about a public statement that gays and lesbians have no claim to the civil rights movement originating with an employee responsible for upholding the university's non-discrimination policies.

Local CBS affiliate WTOL-11 reported on the story and said that Dixon appeared before her fellow End Time Christian Fellowship Church congregants on May 14 to say that the writing of the newspaper item that led to her dismissal was a "divine mandate."

Ms. Dixon, who is an African-American, wrote in "Gay Rights and Wrongs: Another Perspective," a column published in the Toledo Free Press that she took "great umbrage" at the idea that people "choosing the homosexual lifestyle" would see themselves, or be seen by others, as "civil rights victims."

Wrote Dixon in the column, "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."

Dixon did not see gays and lesbians in the same light. She wrote, "Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle," a claim Dixon evidently put forth as proof that, unlike skin color, sexuality is not innate and part of a person from birth.

Dixon's column appeared in response to an earlier item in the Toledo Free Press written by Michael Miller, the publication's editor-in-chief, lamenting that the state of Ohio, including the university, did not extend adequate rights and protections to the GLBT community.

In a Toledo Free Press column the appeared after Dixon's piece, University President Lloyd Jacobs wrote, "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."

Continued Jacobs, "It is necessary, therefore, for me to repudiate much of her writing."

Jacobs also noted that it was true that an "asymmetry" existed at the university in terms of gay and lesbian versus heterosexual employee benefits parity.

GLBT groups pressured the university to take a stronger stand and fire Dixon; eventually, that is what happened.

Some individuals have claimed that with counseling, prayer, personal effort, or a combination of the three, they have been able to "overcome" unwanted attraction to persons of the same gender.

There is also some evidence that for certain individuals, sexual preference can be affected through counseling.

But it is far from clear that any and all gays and lesbians can be changed into heterosexuals, and the mental health profession is hesitant to endorse any such therapies for fear that, for the majority of patients, such counseling would either be ineffective or harmful.

Many so-called "ex-gays" say that although they are no longer sexually active with members of their own sex, they still experience continual attraction to persons of the same gender.

Others say that they have "overcome" feelings of attraction toward their own gender only by becoming "asexual" and completely repressing all sexual feelings.

The issue of race is equally charged. Plastic surgery techniques can alter an individual's facial characteristics and even "bleach" skin tone, but such superficial changes are not widely accepted as a legitimate means to transform oneself from a member of one racial group into a member of another racial demographic.

In the case of Dixon's firing, the question of espousing personal views versus maintaining a professional image on behalf of a larger organization, such as the university, has come into sharp focus.

Gay publication The Toledo Blade reported that a rally was convened on Dixon's behalf at her church, the End Time Christian Fellowship, and that Dixon addressed her fellow congregants, saying, "Whether you agree with me or not is really not the issue. The real issue is that I, like every citizen in the United States, have a First Amendment right to exercise free speech and to express my religion."

Added Dixon, "I did so as a private citizen and I have been fired by a university that I have loved, served, and supported for many years."

Dixon's article was published on April 18; the same say, the university place her on paid leave, recounted the Blade article.

Jacobs sent Dixon a letter that said her published article "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."

Added the letter from Jacobs, "The result is a loss of confidence in you as an administrator."

Dixon claimed to her fellow worshipers from the End Times Christian Fellowship Church that she had proven herself capable of doing her job properly even while holding her expressed views of gays and lesbians.

"To say that I cannot have a personal opinion regarding the practice of some humans and not be effective in my job as a human resources leader is preposterous given my track record for the past 25 years," the Blade article quoted Dixon as saying.

Thomas Sobecki, an attorney representing Dixon, was quoted in the WTOL-11 story, saying, "Crystal Dixon does not hate gay people; she loves gay people as God's people also."

Added Sobecki, "The problem here is the University of Toledo. They have their agenda."

It was announced that Dixon planned a lawsuit against the university, claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights as well as discrimination based on race and religion.

Said Dixon, "No one should ever have to suffer the public humiliation and treatment that I have had to suffer for exercising my constitutional rights," reported WTOL-11.

Countered a spokesperson for the university, Matt Lockwood, "[Dixon's] views drew into question her ability to be inclusive and caused the university to conclude that she is unable to continue to function in her role."

The Blade article included another Lockwood quote: "Certain jobs within a public institution have restrictions on what those people in those jobs can express."

The Blade cited Dixon as having said that she had been offered a different job within the university, which Dixon refused.

The WTOL-11 story also quoted Michelle Stecker of Equality Toledo, a GLBT advocacy group, who characterized Dixon's column as "a direct attack on people who are gay and lesbian."

Noted Stecker, "The Bible certainly does not condone that kind of hate speech."

The Blade quoted Stecker further as noting that if Dixon had held a different job title with different organizational responsibilities, the perception generated by her comments, and the outcome, may have been different.

Said Stecker, "She's the one who made that choice to use this type of inflammatory language against the LGBT community."

Added Stecker, "If she was an administrator of the chemistry department, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

The Blade article said that Dixon's case had received the attention of national conservative organizations and figures such as Rush Limbaugh's radio program and the Web site run by Focus on the Family.

On the other side of the ideological divide, The American Civil Liberties Union also took note, with the Blade quoting the executive director of the ACLU's Ohio branch, Chris Link, as saying, "It would seem perfectly fair and logical for the university to say if this is what you believe, we have to look at your job performance."

However, Ms. Link then added that disciplinary actions ought to be predicated on deeds rather than verbal self-expression. Said Ms. Link, "People should be punished for their actions."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.