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This Police Chief Got Fired for Being Gay, and She’s Not an Exception

In 2012 I used to be a political canvasser for the non-profit organization Human Rights Campaign.I would give out the fact that in 29 states in America, it was legal for someone to be fired from their job simply for being gay. (For transgender folks, workplace protection doesn’t exist in 33 states.) Many people who first heard that from me of were incredulous. “No way,” they would reply, or “You can’t fire someone for being gay, unless you want a lawsuit.”

What happened to Crystal Moore last week is an example of how false such reactions are. Crystal Moore worked in the Latta (South Carolina) Police Department for over 20 years. In that time of service she has not received a single reprimand. Then, on the day she became the police chief, Moore received seven reprimands and the city’s mayor Earl Bullard fired her from her job. The reprimands alleged that Moore had failed to maintain order, that she questioned authority, that she had conducted a background check without authorization, and few other like claims. Moore was not given a verbal or written warning for any of the alleged wrongdoing. The matter was not discussed with the council before she was fired. (Source: Daily Mail)

The way Cyrstal Moore was fired from her job – on the very first day she began her job – is not typical of how inept and incompetent police chiefs are fired. Typically, there needs to be a stronger evidence and an actual process of discussing if the chief is inept and incompetent. There was no such process for Moore. What put Crystal Moore in trouble here was not related to her level of competence, but her identity as a lesbian.

This is especially evident in Earl Bullard’s private comments, recorded by Councilman Jared Tyler. (Source: Salon) Bullard stated the following:

“I would much rather have.. and I will say this to anybody’s face… somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children. Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. You know.. you  got people out there — I’m telling you buddy — I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around. I’m not going to let 2 women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with 2 men neither. I’m not going to do it. Because that ain’t the way the world works. Now, all these people showering down and saying ‘Oh it’s a different lifestyle they can have it.’ Ok, fine and dandy, but I don’t have to look at it and I don’t want my child around it.”

Bullard can say these things, hold the belief that a gay person’s so-called lifestyle is something his children shouldn’t see, and he can actually fire a person for being gay, and all this is legal in South Carolina. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not federally protected classes. The bill Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would make it so that gay and transgender people can be protected in the workplace (Source: Human Rights Campaign), but it has received opposition from politicians like Eric Bullard, who say it’ll lead to frivolous lawsuits.

Many Latta residents have rallied in support of Moore, sending the message that what happened to Moore is anything but frivolous. The support can be seen within the Latta council as well. Last Thursday the city council held a special meeting and voted for a referendum to weaken the mayor’s power. As this story continues to garner more and more national attention, there may be changes within the state of South Carolina itself as well. A large part of the effort is from South Carolina Equality, a statewide LGBT rights group. It has helped pass employment protection ordinances for city and county employees in several areas of South Carolina. The group is expected to advise Latta to take such action, too. (Source: Huffington Post)

Eric Bullard’s actions are still legal in most parts of this country, but with the powerful voice and support of the American people, this status quo may ultimately change in the near future.

About the author

David Kwon is a freelance writer to Issue Hawk. He's currently a graduate student majoring in social work at New York University, mainly being trained to serve the poor and the homeless.