Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general who launched a bigoted Internet offensive against the University of Michigan's gay student-body president, announced today that he's taking personal leave from his job. The news comes one day after his employer, Attorney General Mike Cox, defended Shirvell's right to hate-blog in his free time on CNN on the grounds that it fell under free speech and that Shirvell was protected by civil-service rules that prevent employees from unfair dismissal. "I'm at fault here," Cox told the Detroit News, adding that he hadn't read all of Shirvell's blog prior to invoking the First Amendment. That means he probably missed a swastika photo and fearmongering about the "radical homosexual agenda," occasionally written in all caps, the font choice of totally reasonable people.
Michigan laws protect discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace, but don't apply to what employees do after hours. Nonetheless, Cox is free to fire employees for "just cause" like "conduct unbecoming a state employee." (Aha! We knew there had to be a no-crazies-allowed clause in there somewhere.)
One of the many Facebook pages urging Cox to dismiss Shirvell has more than 6,000 fans. Cox is also facing pressure from Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who tweeted on Thursday that she would have fired Shirvell. "I don't know why she's so freaking irresponsible ... She went to Harvard Law School," Cox said. "The civil service rules are a huge shield for free speech, and she knows that." Shirvell's blog is now private and he will face a disciplinary hearing when he returns.