Service Sacrificed

This week while the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) is once again being debated in Washington, and its detractors continue to deny any need to protect workers from baseless firings, comes the story of a public servant suddenly dismissed, and the community she serves searching for answers. For any of you who haven’t heard the story from Latta, South Carolina, I’ll bring you up to speed. Crystal Moore was hired by the City of Latta in 1989 and has served her community as a police officer ever since. By all accounts, she has been an exemplary officer, rising through the ranks until her appointment to Chief of Police in 2012. Her service record shows no disciplinary action in all of those years.

Town shows support for fired police chief
Town shows support for fired police chief

In December, the city got a new mayor, and suddenly Chief Moore has become something completely different. She’s a discipline problem, a troublemaker; she is not fit to run the agency. Mayor Bullard cites the fact that Moore received seven reprimands, ostensibly the justification for the firing of his police chief. The interesting thing about the list of transgressions is that six of the seven seem to deal with challenging her supervisor in some way. Hmm…the Chief’s supervisor…oh, that would be the mayor. So, in the space of four months, this formerly stellar employee has racked up seven times as many reprimands as in her entire career. Now, we might conclude that the new mayor and the chief simply cannot get along. It happens. One would think, however, that they would have a sit down to discuss the issues between them. According to the chief that never happened. She states that after hearing rumors that her job was in jeopardy, she asked but the mayor but he denied it. City council is concerned about the fact that no verbal counseling preceded the written reprimands.

What happened next is the troubling part of this story. During a phone conversation with City Councilman Jared Taylor, Mayor Bullard had this to say:

“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.”

Maybe the chief wasn’t as much of a discipline problem as she was…a lesbian. And you know what the amazing thing is? It’s perfectly legal in South Carolina and thirty other states to fire an employee for being gay. Ironically, the progress we’ve made toward equality has rendered it politically incorrect for homophobic people to openly admit to firing someone on the grounds of sexual orientation. Which means the mayor felt he had to invent other reasons for the firing, but his unfiltered words tell the tale. That’s what bothers the fair-minded residents of Latta, who turned out in support of their police chief at a city council meeting.

The purpose of ENDA is to prevent precisely this type of situation from occurring. Opponents of the legislation claim that discrimination based upon sexual orientation doesn’t occur, and it’s another example of the advancing “homosexual agenda”. No doubt the segregationists in the old South used the same arguments based on race in the days before the Civil Rights Act. It would be great if equality could be achieved without the need for laws to ensure that individual’s rights weren’t denied based on prejudice. Unfortunately that’s not reality. The Human Rights Campaign spokesman, Fred Sainz, correctly states, “Without explicit federal or state employment protections, a decorated police chief is left to fend for herself.”ENDA-hi1

The citizens of Latta apparently don’t care that Chief Moore is a lesbian. They only care about the job she does for their city. That’s all LGBT citizens want—to be judged on the merits of their job performance. Once again, folks, we don’t want “special” rights, only equal treatment under the law. Chief Moore shouldn’t have her many years of service to her community sacrificed based upon bigotry. If it can happen to her, it can happen to any one of us in the LGBT community. The Employment Non-discrimination Act has huge implications for all of us. ENDA is the next step in the equality march. Let’s keep moving forward.

Peace~ LM

Vote Equality

Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in four states today. Thirty-two times before voters have cast ballots on the question of marriage equality throughout this country, and thirty-two times we have lost.  But this is the first time that the question has been on the ballot since the repeal of DADT and the president going on record as saying that lesbian and gay couples should have equal rights. Now, I know that some of you will still say that the president’s initial position was to endorse civil unions but not gay marriage. That is true. But you know what? I don’t care. The fact is that he came around and endorsed our right to marry, and that is huge. I’ve had people in my life tell me that getting to know Sandy and me has changed their opinion on same-sex marriage. That’s a good thing. Changing hearts is important.

So, here we are on yet another election day. I hope all of the marriage equality ballot measures are successful. The country is moving in the direction of equality, much to the consternation of the religious right. Try as they might, as with all civil rights issues before, truth, love, and equality will prevail. Those of you in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, and Washington should know that we are all with you in spirit. In Maryland the marriage equality initiative seems solid, with a 9 or 10 point lead. Maine’s marriage referendum looks like it has the votes, with a 13-point lead. Washington has the brightest outlook, with a 54 to 38% lead among likely voters. Minnesota’s question is a gay marriage-banning proposal, or to put it more honestly, the conservatives want to enshrine inequality into the Minnesota constitution.

What all of these initiatives have in common is this: The people have the power to choose equality. And if you’re a lesbian or gay citizen in those states, or the friend or family member of a lesbian or gay American, it’s your duty to get out and vote. There is no room for apathy, folks. I hear so many of my friends saying, “Oh, I don’t like politics,” or some other lame excuse for inaction. If you don’t look out for your own self-interest, how can you expect others to do so? Friends, this is how our country works. Democracy is a privilege and a duty. Today, this duty couldn’t be more important, not only in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, but everywhere in this country. If you care about equality, get out and vote. It’s imperative. Your quality of life depends on it.

The gains made for equality are fragile, and we’ve seen what can happen when we allow those who stand against us to frame the message. The stakes for those of you with marriage equality on the ballot are high and the implications for the rest of the country are huge. Momentum builds, change takes hold, and equality eventually wins. History bears this out. Get out the vote. Tell your family and friends. Let them know this is personal. Make your voice heard for equality. This is your moment.

Vote.

It’s those damned homosexuals again!

Science? Bah! It’s those damned homosexuals again!

Have you seen the latest ultra-conservative preacher’s assertion that the current storm on record—Hurricane Sandy—is our fault? The LGBT community that is. You know the story. These preachers can’t help themselves, every time there is a devastating weather event, it’s because of the gays and lesbians. Now, hurricane Sandy has already plowed through the Caribbean, causing untold damage, and sadly, the deaths of some 69 souls and is bearing down on the east coast of the US. Rather than mobilizing their religious brethren in community efforts for rescue or other assistance to those in harms way, these “men of the cloth” instead use the tragedy once again to stir up their sinister brand of hatred for the LGBT community.

Of course, there is a long history of this false prophecy fear mongering among the hardliners of the religious right. John McTernan is only one of a sad list of so-called Christian leaders who regularly employ such tactics to get attention. There’s Pat Robertson, who has famously asserted that the LGBT community is responsible for Hurricane Katrina. 9/11, according to Jerry Falwell, is the evildoing of our community as well. Fred Phelps has his own special niche blaming the deaths of US service members on our country’s “acceptance” of homosexuality. Presumably, if we were all imprisoned or worse, all casualties of war and every natural disaster would cease. Our military would be invincible, impervious to every bullet or bomb, and never again would we see a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, I guess. Wow.

What about science, you say? Hogwash! Scientific theories regarding climate change and evolution get in the way of the fire and brimstone scare tactics. Better to relegate groups of citizens to the realm of godless heathens, responsible for every ill of humanity than to accept reasoning or scientific theory. These same types of preachers once used race to demonize and blame, but now that’s passé, and besides they can get a lot more fundamentalist churches on their side on the issue of homosexuality. Ahh, now here’s common ground for biblical ultra-fundamentalists, regardless of race.

I realize that these types of preachers have always tried to use images of “vile” human behaviors to justify what they warn is God’s wrath, and many times the message strays into the demonization of a particular group. Jews, blacks, Asians, communists, Muslims, Catholics, gays, and lesbians, have all been targets of the same ideology at different points in history. Of course, forces of nature that we cannot control are events most easily exploited to summon the images of the wrath of a vengeful god, and who better to blame for terrible misfortune than some “other” group? Sadly, it’s a recurring pattern for those who supposedly are God’s messengers to the world, regardless of religious affiliation. I’d like to suggest to these folks that they would better serve their fellow citizens by demonstrating consistent charity and love. Tell your flock how to unite for the good of humanity, especially in times of hardship or natural disaster. If all of these preachers tried it, imagine the good they might actually accomplish.

Thanks for reading~LM