A Latta Discrimination

A reader writes:

I know you’re not the biggest fan of pushes for laws such as ENDA, but thought I would share this with you anyway. Crystal Moore has been with the police force of sleepy Latta, South Carolina for more than 20 years, capping her career serving as the town’s police chief. She’s an out lesbian. On April 15, she was fired by the mayor, her pristine service record being marred by the SEVEN disciplinary letters he handed to her that very afternoon. After refusing to sign without having an attorney check them out, he dismissed her. These letters were the result of the police chief investigating a recent hire of the mayor’s for whom the mayor did not do his due diligence, and who was supposedly driving a city vehicle with a suspended license. Now, all of a sudden he’s not answering questions regarding the firing but was recorded in conversation with a fellow council member saying the following (audio here):

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.

Pure bigotry. Disgusting. But the silver lining to this is the amount of outcry from within the small, rural community of all ages and races have been rallying to her cause. She was a good, competent police chief. She was well regarded in the community, and they see what Mayor Bullard did and recognize it for exactly what it is – animus. Local reports have said that in excess of 100 people filled council chambers and out into the hallways, despite the mayor’s best efforts to quash debate, even going so far as to forbid entry to the public meeting to nonresidents of the town (illegal).

I’m from this region of South Carolina, and I couldn’t be more proud of all the folks for standing up for what’s right. I’m hoping the council is able to reinstate Chief Moore. Unfortunately in SC, by law there’s no way to impeach a mayor; only the governor can remove them from office for committing crimes. I have my doubts that Gov. Haley will remove the mayor despite what may prove to be several illegal actions by the mayor.

Update from a reader:

I finally know enough about something to write in because am originally from the tiny town of Latta and personally know many of the people involved.

One aspect of the case that the previous reader left out is that prior to Ms. Moore’s firing, the town’s recreation department head, who also happens to be openly gay, abruptly resigned and took another job in a nearby town shortly after the town’s new mayor took over last December. She was also a well-respected member of the community and by all accounts had also done a fantastic job in running her department. So we have two high-profile gay citizens with exemplary records and many years on the job who are both now gone (one resigned, one terminated) within a few months of an unabashedly anti-gay mayor coming into office. On the surface, it appears to be an open and shut case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The problem here is that quite often in small towns, it is very difficult to get to the truth in matters such as this. Although I have been very proud to see a community that is very conservative and Christian rising up to support the former police chief, the charges of anti-gay animus have somewhat overwhelmed the facts in the case – namely, the seven reprimands that the mayor drew up in short order against Ms. Moore. Very few people know exactly what has transpired in the police department, yet the protesting citizens of the town have decided that they know the real reason for the firing and are out to reconcile the situation via public pressure.

We will most likely see this play out in the courts. I do hope that that process reveals the truth in the case. In the meantime, my tiny hometown will have to serve as a flashpoint in the very complicated arena of equal rights.