Friday October 19, 2012 | 10:18 AM

At Thursday night's debate on same-sex marriage, an incident involving a Maryland diversity officer who was suspended after she signed a petition to put gay marriage on the ballot was offered by opponents as further proof that the law will have a chilling effect on free speech.

Carroll Conley of the Christian Civic League used Angela McCaskill of Gallaudet University in Maryland as an example of the erosion of individual liberties.

"She was suspended for saying citizens should have a vote," he said.

Mary Bonauto, an attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, quickly responded.

"It's an outrage and she should get her job back," she said.

On that point, the two sides agreed.

Earlier this month, McCaskill was suspended from her job as diversity officer after other faculty members discovered she had signed a petition to send gay marriage to the ballot in Maryland. The university president said he needed time to consider whether it was appropriate for a diversity officer to have signed the petition, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Earlier this week, McCaskill held a press conference to demand her job back and to ask for compensation for what the university has put her through.

"This has been a tremendously horrific time for myself and my family," she said, according to The Sun. "They university has allowed this issue to escalate out of control. They have attempted to intimidate me. They have tarnished my reputation."

The situation has been used in a TV ad by gay marriage opponents in Maryland, and looks as though it will continue to be cited by opponents as an example of what will happen if gay marriage becomes legal in more states. In an editorial, The Sun called it a "scare tactic."

Maine, Maryland and Washington will vote in November to decide whether to allow gay marriage, and Minnesota will vote on a proposed constitutional ban.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
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Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
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On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
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On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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