The tiny town of Latta, S.C., found itself embroiled in scandal last week after Mayor Earl Bullard fired police chief Crystal Moore. Moore alleges that her firing was nothing more than a vindictive display of homophobia by Bullard, who became mayor in December 2013. After loyally serving Latta for more than two decades without incident, the openly gay employee suddenly found herself at odds with a new boss who opposes gay rights. Seven reprimands later—the only reprimands she had received during her time on the force, all issued on the same day—Moore was out of a job. This is what can happen when your new boss is anti-gay.
During a secretly recorded phone call, Bullard said that he would rather have a drunkard look after his children than an openly gay individual. (If you’re concerned with Bullard’s privacy, he claimed he would say this to anyone directly.) In perhaps the most damning part of the call, Bullard states, “I'm not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it.” Other councilmembers have alleged that Bullard’s intention to fire Moore was formed even before he took office.
I hope those who view former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich as the victim of a vengeful mob are paying attention. In South Carolina, we have a police chief who was allegedly terminated for her sexual orientation. Where is the outrage over Moore’s firing?
Latta residents continue to express their support for the now-deposed police chief, but the loss of a dedicated and respected public servant should come as no surprise: South Carolina offers absolutely no employment protections for LGBTQ employees. Last year, South Carolina’s Republican senators, Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, both voted against the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, known as ENDA. House Speaker John Boehner claimed that “people are already protected in the workplace,” suggesting that ENDA would lead to frivolous lawsuits. Since then, Boehner has been instrumental in blocking a simple up-or-down vote on the legislation.
Gay employees often face tremendous hurdles to sustain their livelihoods, quietly enduring gay slurs or harassment, or relying on tacit acceptance of their sexuality from their superiors. All it takes is a change in leadership, and any employer can suddenly take advantage of the lack of LGBT employment protections in their state. While some seem to think that the gay rights movement is mounting witch hunts against those it brands homophobic bigots, cases like Crystal Moore’s remind us that for most the battle remains one for simple equality.