WASHINGTON — The mayor of a tiny South Carolina town has triggered protests, prayer vigils and even a city council vote to weaken his powers after firing longtime police chief Crystal Moore, who is a lesbian and who some believe is a target of the mayor’s homophobia.
The controversy over Moore’s firing comes at a time when many in Congress are pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to fire or harass someone at work for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Latta Mayor Earl Bullard fired Moore on Tuesday soon after she received seven reprimands, which alleged that she had failed to maintain order and questioned authority, among other offenses, according to a report by WBTW News 13. The reprimands were the first Moore ever received after more than 20 years on the job. What’s more, members of the city council said Bullard, who just became mayor in December, broke with protocol by not giving Moore a verbal or written warning for any wrongdoing, or discussing the matter with the council before taking action.
By Wednesday, dozens of residents were picketing outside of town hall calling for Moore’s job to be reinstated; Moore came by too, to thank them. Others in the town, which has a population of just over 1,400, held a prayer virgil for Moore.
Things escalated further Thursday, when the city council held a special meeting and voted 6 to 1 to strip some of Bullard’s power and shift it to the council. Moore told WBTW News 13 before the meeting that she’d heard for weeks that Bullard was planning to fire her, even though he denied it when she asked him. She said she thinks the mayor had a vendetta against her for being gay.
“I can’t believe that we still have no equal rights. That’s the biggest issue,” Moore said. “I’ve been harassed, intimidated. This is the first time it’s been this public. I’d tried living a quiet decent life and do what I’m supposed to.”