Fired Over 'Anti-Gay' Column, Ex-College VP Sues

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An Ohio college administrator recently lost her job after she wrote an article in her local newspaper against homosexuality.

Now, Crystal Dixon, former associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo, is fighting back.

"I wrote with no malice, no hatred in my heart. But I wanted to present another perspective on the subject and that was what was going through my mind," Dixon said. "It never occurred to me that I would lose my job.

On the morning of April 6, 2008 she woke up with a divine mandate, which was to respond to an editorial in the Toledo Free Press where editor-in-chief Michael Miller argued against gay prejudice, "based in religion." He also advocated for domestic partner benefits for the Medical University of Ohio, the University of Toledo's sister school.

Dixon wrote that homosexuality goes against God's divine order. She explained that the University of Toledo was "working diligently" to resolve the benefits issue. She simply signed her piece, Crystal Dixon.

After it ran, the university placed Dixon on administrative leave, saying it had concerns about her leadership. Three weeks later, she was fired.

"I think it's an issue of free speech," Dixon said. "The university did not like what I had to say and I also believe there was also an undercurrent of strong opposition from radical gay rights individuals."

University officials refused CBN News requests to be interviewed about the case. In court documents, the university argues that Dixon's editorial piece was related to her position at the school. The documents state that her responsibilities included serving as an ambassador of the university, to communicate its values and mission.

"She did not speak as a vice president of the university," Dixon's attorney Tom Sobecki said. "She spoke out as a private citizen."

Dixon is now suing the university.

Many in Toledo are divided over her case. Dixon's opponents believe she could not speak publicly against homosexuality and uphold the school's non-discrimination policy.

Her supporters say a private citizen's right to free speech trumps all. That includes editor Miller, who wrote the original column that Dixon protested.

"To express one's opinion on a social topic that's that hot and divisive, you shouldn't fear for your job," Miller said.

Shannon Demos, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, said Dixon's case will rest on whether or not she spoke as a private citizen.

"She didn't mention the university or her employment openly," Demos said. "She didn't sign it with her job title or anything. Even when she spoke about the university's policy, she did it favorably."

Since losing her job almost two years ago, Dixon has forged ahead, developing several small businesses and even writing a book, which will help as she waits on her day in court and a resolution on an issue that could potentially affect free expression for many.

*Originally published March 24, 2010.

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Heather Sells

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