Will Latta oust mayor for firing lesbian police chief?

For Weekly SurgeApril 21, 2014 

It’s important to keep up on what happens in the Palmetto State. After all, image is everything and lately, as a state, our image has been quite unfortunate on LGBTQ issues. We have an amendment banning same-sex marriage, we refuse to follow the rulings of the IRS regarding the tax status extended to same-sex couples who are legally married, and now, we have the mayor of Latta, in Dillon County, who has fired the police chief for being a lesbian.

By all published accounts, Police Chief Crystal Moore, who is openly gay, had been an exemplary employee during her career with the department for more than 20 years. She had never received a reprimand during her career until she managed to get on the wrong side of Mayor Earl Bullard.

Earlier this year, Moore opened an investigation into whether city vehicles were being used improperly by another city official. Among her findings was the fact that Bullard had failed to conduct a proper background check on Parks and Recreations Director Vontray Sellers. This investigation was in response to a news story by WBTW News 13 which reported that Sellers had been driving official vehicles with a suspended license.

Seems reasonable doesn’t it? Well, reasonable is a very subjective concept. What appears to rational people as due diligence in protecting the image and integrity of the city is something worthy of termination based on the actions taken by Bullard. In an apparent act of retribution, Bullard issued seven reprimands in a single day against Moore. These were the first reprimands she had ever received in more than 20 years on the force, before Bullard fired her on Tuesday, April 15. Among the reprimands Bullard issued against Moore were insubordination, failure to maintain order and for contacting the media.

If we left the firing there, it would be questionable at best. But Bullard seems to be one of those people who likes to double down on stupid and channel his inner Boss Hogg. In a recorded homophobic tirade, Bullard made the following enlightening statements regarding his views of the LGBTQ community:

“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 two 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 two 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.”

These people? When you hear statements like that, does anyone else have flashbacks to Alabama Governor George Wallace standing at the podium in 1963 and bleating out his words of ignorance: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever”?

As wounding and reprehensible as Bullard’s words are, unfortunately they do not create an open-and-shut case for Moore. Without legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in place, it is actually legal in more than 30 states, including South Carolina, to fire someone based on their sexuality or gender identity. It’s OK to express a collective WTF when you read those words.

Fred Santz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign stated: “By all accounts, Chief Moore has served the people of Latta, S.C., well for over 20 years. On the surface this looks like a clear-cut case of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Without explicit federal or state employment protections, a decorated police chief is left to fend for herself.”

On a positive note, since he fired Chief Moore, Bullard, much like disgraced Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, has been stripped of much of his authority by a 6-to-1 vote of his city council. I think that’s a great beginning. Whether a mayor is crazy on crack or crazed by homophobia and authority, it’s probably a good idea to put a few additional checks and balances in place.

What began as very much a small town event is now getting national attention. Latta is roughly an hour from Myrtle Beach. The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and even the U.K.’s Daily Mail are following the story. I didn’t have time to read all of the more than 175,000 stories but as far as the major news outlets go, this is a public relations nightmare for our state. But at the same time, it impeccably exemplifies the desperate need for ENDA.

This is one of those stories that has legs. It could very well be the catalyst for legal action that will finally eviscerate laws and practices that have absolutely no place in a society that recognizes the need to extend true equality to all of its citizens. Moore now has the backing of every major LGBTQ Rights organization in the country while the Mayor of Latta does not even enjoy the confidence of his own city council. Let’s hope the final headline in this story will read “Hello Equality and Goodbye, Earl.”

OUT & ABOUT

Friday, April 24 – Join Morgan Richards at Pulse Ultra Club at 6:30 p.m. for The Fabulous Friday Happy Hour Matinee Show. Pulse Ultra Club is located at 803 Main St., Myrtle Beach. For additional information on this and other events, see https://www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.

Friday, May 2 – First Friday Happy Hour, the Takeover Grand Strand Event, will meet at Carlos N Charlie’s from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Carlos N Charlie’s is at 1202 Celebrity Circle R2, Myrtle Beach. For additional information, visit www.firstfridayhappyhour.org.

Wednesday, May 14 - Prime Timers Myrtle Beach will host its May Dinner Out event at 6 p.m. at Abuelo’s located at 740 Coastal Grand Circle, Myrtle Beach. For more information about this event and Prime Timers of Myrtle Beach, visit the Web site at www.primetimersww.com/primetimersmb.

Friday, May 15 – S.C. Equality is hosting its annual Give OUT Day. Proceeds raised on Give OUT Day 2014 will fund the education and outreach efforts in South Carolina as SC Equality works to change hearts and minds in support of equality while empowering LGBT people to Know Your Rights. You can donate now and the transaction will not be processed until May 15, 2014. For more information go to www.scequality.org.

Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.

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