What really happened?
Hard to say...
I first learned about this at The Daily Nous--a site with a decided loony lefty bias. They immediately characterized it as ZOMG AN OBVIOUS RIGHT-WING SMEAR CAMPAIGN !!!111 AGAINST A VIRTUOUS GRADUATE STUDENT. Then FIRE came out on the side of the student. Now...I have fair faith in FIRE, and little faith in The Daily Nous...but I have to say, I am weakly inclined to think that there's not much of a case against Abbate here.
Believe me, lefty bias in the academy is a real problem. Not as big a problem as the right would have you believe...but a real problem nevertheless. (Well...or so I'm convinced... We need systematic data here, though I doubt we'll get it...) I have no doubt that that there are many professors who will shut down any challenge to same-sex marriage and similar things with extreme prejudice... In fact, I've heard other professors regale people with tales of their heroic, in-class, anti-conservative exploits--shutting down challenges to evolution, for example. (In fact, I saw that first-hand as an undergrad...) However, honestly:
1. I am inclined to agree that supporting an SSM ban is plausibly equivalent to supporting anti-miscegenation laws.
2. I've also been leading class discussions in which I had to make snap decisions about what was intellectually in play and what was bigotry...and it's a fairly safe bet that I haven't always made the right call.
3. I'm inclined to think that to err is human, and disinclined to push for crucifixion when someone makes an even vaguely reasonable call. (Thus I'm at odds with the SJWs and the very crowd that I suspect is defending Abbate. Were the tables turned, and had a grad student made a similar controversial call in favor of a conservative position, there is no doubt that The Daily Nous et al. would not be defending that person. In fact, on slip-up on the other side of the spectrum, and you're likely to be hounded out of academia...) It sounds like Abbate made an at-least-vaguely reasonable call. She may have made a mistake...and, if so, should not do it again... But even if she did, it's NBD, IMO.
My own current view about this sort of thing is, basically: nobody died.
It was one conversation...Abbate got it right or got it wrong...whatever.
The more interesting question in my view is: is arguing against SSM such bigotry that it should be shut down in philosophy classes? Remember...philosophy classes are classes in which we discuss the possibility that recreational murder is not wrong... So...
For the last couple of semesters (though not this semester), I have spent a week discussing SSM in my critical thinking class. Inter alia, I make the argument that the polygamy objection is under-rated, and, in fact, poses a substantial challenge to the pro-SSM position. That doesn't make me a bigot, and such a discussion is obviously not impermissible. (I shouldn't have to say this--and it's a sign of the degeneration of liberalism that I do--but: I'm pro-SSM...)
At any rate, despite my disdain for The Daily Nous et al., and my respect for FIRE...my inclination is to think that the case against Abbate is weak, and that this is much ado about very little.
Make of that what you will.