Appeals Court Rules University Had Grounds To Fire Anti-Gay Diversity Officer

Crystal Dixon

Crystal Dixon was the associate vice president for human resources at the University of Toledo, until she was fired in 2008. She had written an editorial in the local paper claiming that LGBT people did not warrant the same civil rights as people of color, and the university felt her perspective violated her capacity to enforce its diversity initiatives. Dixon sued, claiming her rights to free speech and equality protection were violated, but a federal district court dismissed her suit in February of this year. She appealed, and now a three-judge panel from the Six Circuit has similarly ruled that the university had grounds to terminate her:

Dixon’s argument, however, ignores critical policies developed in and promoted by the Human Resources Department at the University.  Dixon’s public statement implying that LGBT individuals should not be compared with and afforded the same protections as African-Americans directly contradicts several such substantive policies instituted by the University. […]

Although Dixon correctly contends that she never explicitly stated that the University diversity policies should not extend to LGBT students and employees, by voicing her belief that members of the LGBT community do not possess an immutable characteristic in the way that she as an African-American woman does, the implication is clear:  Dixon does not think LGBT students and employees of the University are entitled to civil-rights protections, even  though the University, in part through the Human Resources Department, expressly provides them.  In writing her op-ed column, Dixon not only spoke on policy issues, but also spoke on policy issues related directly to her position at the University.

Crystal Dixon’s loss here provides an important argument against “conscience” and “religious freedom” protections that conservatives often advocate for. Her values and desire to express them publicly directly contradicted with the expectations of her job. Others at the same university could have written the same editorial without endangering their jobs because their positions do not require them to enforce nondiscrimination policies and resolve disputes. Dixon wanted to have it both ways, but if she was not prepared to advocate for LGBT employees and students as she was for other protected groups, she shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place.