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"It made me proud of my town to see everybody come out for her"
July 22, 2014 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Small South Carolina town rallies for fired lesbian police chief
LATTA, S.C. (AP) -- When openly gay police chief Crystal Moore was fired by a mayor who condemned her lifestyle as "questionable," she feared her two decade career in law enforcement in this town was over. Then, this conservative, small town rebelled.

The people of Latta, who voted overwhelmingly for a state amendment banning gay marriage eight years ago, turned against the mayor, stripped him of his powers and the town council rehired Moore. They said her dedication to the town mattered more than her sexual orientation.
posted by Lexica (62 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for sharing this. It's finally becoming socially unacceptable to be bigoted against gays even in primarily right-wing areas of the US. I think this is a good indicator of progress.
posted by Librarypt at 4:56 PM on July 22 [34 favorites]


This sort of thing is part of why everyone needs to get out and vote - even if you avoid the national races, you can make such a difference in local politics. Moore was reinstated by the people.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:56 PM on July 22 [10 favorites]


Yeah, it's amazing how fast things are moving. Good for her, and good for the citizens of Latta.
posted by languagehat at 4:57 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


More background:

SC Police Chief Says She Was Fired Because She's Gay

SC Town Retaliates Against Mayor Who Fired Gay Police Chief
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:57 PM on July 22


Related, and also inspiring.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:57 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


"I don't like the homosexual ways portrayed in front of children," Bullard told AP by telephone Thursday. "You can't explain to a 5-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies."

This kind of thing is hilarious to me because someone did exactly this when I was around 6 years old. A lesbian friend of the family told me that men could marry men and women could marry women* and my reaction was basically "huh, really? Cool. Let's get snacks!!"

*At the time this was not literally true anywhere in the world. It was only 20 years ago. How far we've come!
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:57 PM on July 22 [40 favorites]


I love a good "people find their better side when faced with unfairness" story. This just made my day, thanks for posting.
posted by chapps at 4:58 PM on July 22 [6 favorites]


"You can't explain to a 5-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies."

I dunno. My 6-y.-o. recently told me that when she grows up she can marry her best female friend (and I quote) "now that the same-sex marriage ban has been repealed."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:00 PM on July 22 [84 favorites]


The common story of "actually, now that I know someone in [group x], I realise that x-people are just like us!"

It's a good story.
posted by jeather at 5:01 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


Lesbian Police Chief sounds like a lost Wilco album.
posted by dr_dank at 5:20 PM on July 22 [29 favorites]


Yeah when my sister was around 6 she and her best friend were going to get married too, but one of them was going to become a man so they'd be able to. Didn't seem too important to them which one. Probably a lot harder to explain to kids why that magic invisible man in the sky made these stupid rules, frankly.
posted by crayz at 5:30 PM on July 22 [5 favorites]


"It made me proud of my town to see everybody come... out... for her."

I see what you did there.
posted by bpm140 at 5:31 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


What's hard is being a bigot and having to acknowledge your bigotry as your five your old asks you "but why can't they get married?" Then you have to explain why its ok to hate some people for arbitrary reasons. Won't somebody think of the bigots?
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:33 PM on July 22 [13 favorites]


And yet, no tar, feathers, and running out of town on a rail.

Perhaps rainbow feathered boas clash with tar?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:38 PM on July 22


Moore was reinstated by the people.

I wish people exercised that power more often and good on them for doing that...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:40 PM on July 22 [7 favorites]


Back in the sixties, when I was six, I remember telling grown-ups I didn't think it was fair to be against gay people (or out of wedlock mothers) because they couldn't help who they fell in love with... and I remember the looks of consternation on their faces as they tried to change the subject.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:49 PM on July 22 [12 favorites]


This is not as unusual as it sounds. Small towns are remarkably willing to forgive things in their own that they reject vehemently in outsiders.

The police chief was a local person.

The mayor is not.

Bullard may not have grown up in Latta, but over the last 34 years, the small town has become home for him.

He may have been there 34 years, but that's still not 'from here'.
posted by winna at 5:50 PM on July 22 [37 favorites]


This is yet another example of why it is totally inappropriate (and, to the rest of the world, quite bizarre) to have local police forces that are answerable to some petty little amateur politician.
posted by wilful at 5:52 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


I'm glad to hear this is the outcome - I read something about this a little while back and figured it wouldn't have a happy ending. Glad to be wrong!
posted by rtha at 5:54 PM on July 22 [5 favorites]


This is yet another example of why it is totally inappropriate (and, to the rest of the world, quite bizarre) to have local police forces that are answerable to some petty little amateur politician.

While I agree dismissing the police chief for her sexual orientation is indefensible and should be illegal in all fifty states, I think you actually *do* want police departments to be answerable to the elected government of their jurisdiction. Otherwise you have what the LAPD was through the 1990s, which was essentially a sovereign army answerable to no one but itself.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:13 PM on July 22 [24 favorites]


Yeah, it's amazing how fast things are moving.

Seriously. If in 1988, when I was struggling, you read me two newspaper articles from 2014 -- this one and one about flying cars -- and then asked me to decide which one was real, I would have accused you of thinking I was an idiot.

(The answer obviously would have been flying cars.)
posted by mudpuppie at 6:25 PM on July 22 [8 favorites]


Yes, ultimately the petty little amateur politician is answerable to the People. In this case, the People had more sense than he did.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:26 PM on July 22


"I don't like the homosexual ways portrayed in front of children...You can't explain to a 5-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies."

These same people probably don't explain heterosexuality or why there is a mommy and daddy to 5 year olds either.
posted by milarepa at 6:33 PM on July 22 [11 favorites]


The fact that more and more people can safely be "out" now -- due in no small part to the bravery of those who came out earlier -- is probably why things are changing so fast these days. Everybody used to know a gay person or two...they just didn't *know* they did. Now that they know they know a gay person or two, they can put 2 and 2 together (with one of the 2s being "and the sky still hasn't fallen") and realize that teh gays aren't some invading army from commie San Francisco, come to corrupt their kids, heralding the end of days, and they start to relax a bit.
The current invading army is now composed of Guatemalan children, I gather.
posted by uosuaq at 6:35 PM on July 22 [6 favorites]


They said her dedication to the town mattered more than her sexual orientation.

This sort of thing is way better than the alternative, but ... you have to be twice as good to be treated half as well. What would've happened if she were just an okay police chief, nothing special or exciting? It still wouldn't be right to fire her for being gay.

Maybe I'm just feeling cranky today. Admittedly, this is a significant improvement over N years ago when even being a dedicated public servant might not've made a difference.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:48 PM on July 22 [9 favorites]


"It made me proud of my town to see everybody come out for her"

Wow, the people of this town really went the extra mile.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:05 PM on July 22 [12 favorites]


It's progress in small-town South Carolina, is what it is, spaceman spiff. You're preaching to the choir, I think, about how things *should* be. It's still okay to be excited by a little bit of progress.
posted by uosuaq at 7:08 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


"It doesn’t have any effect on your life. What do you care?! People try to talk about it like it’s a social issue. Like when you see someone stand up on a talk show and say, 'How am I supposed to explain to my children that two men are getting married?' I dunno. It’s your shitty kid. You fuckin’ tell ‘em. Why is that anyone else’s problem? Two guys are in love and they can’t get married because you don’t want to talk to your ugly child for five fuckin’ minutes?" - Louis CK
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:11 PM on July 22 [55 favorites]


(in response to the bit about what to tell the children)
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:13 PM on July 22


Vaguely related: a friend of mine is a United Church minister and a few years ago had a small and aging parish of mostly septuagenarian widows. When gay marriage was newly a thing in Canada, a pair of young women approached my friend about officiating at their wedding. She said she'd be happy to do so with the proviso that the ones she had done so far were in homes or parks and such. If the couple wanted it in the church, the minister said she would have to see if the congregation was okay with it because it was strictly speaking their church. The old grannies, as it turned out, were 100% in favour, and were all then invited. The place was packed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:13 PM on July 22 [27 favorites]


"It was only 20 years ago. How far we've come!"

If forced to choose between this and hoverboards, I think we're living in the right future.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:41 PM on July 22 [27 favorites]


There's something about the townspeople having a fundraiser to cover her legal bills that just takes it to another level for some reason.

Totally separate of the employment discrimination issue, though, what kind of idiot is a small town mayor who fires a police chief who has worked for the town for 20 years after only being in office 3 months? That's some "Ned Stark blunders into King's Landing" level of bad political maneuvering.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:43 PM on July 22 [25 favorites]


"This is not as unusual as it sounds. Small towns are remarkably willing to forgive things in their own that they reject vehemently in outsiders."

Yeah, sorta. I grew up in a small town in the 1970's - early 80's and "Bob" who was gay and lived with a partner was respected because he was a hard-working man from a hard-working family. Other than, "Bob is gay and lives with a guy." I don't remember anyone making an issue of it.

But the few guys in high school who were "gay-acting" according to the stereotypes of the time were tolerated at best, and were definitely bullied by some and discriminated against.

The times are changing, but it's still difficult to be different in a small town.
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:04 PM on July 22 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the Mayor still draws a paycheck from the city coffers now that he's been stripped of power by the council. Because I'd be happier if he didn't.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:05 PM on July 22


I was just thinking we were overdue for a "It's a Wonderful Life" remake.
posted by corb at 8:07 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


This kind of thing is hilarious to me because someone did exactly this when I was around 6 years old. A lesbian friend of the family told me that men could marry men and women could marry women* and my reaction was basically "huh, really? Cool. Let's get snacks!!"

Yeah, you can tell five year olds that cheese comes from dinosaurs that live on the moon and they'll be all like 'lol neato', so saying 'some kids have two mums/two dads' is reaaaally not a huge credibility stretch.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:20 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


It's always a pleasure to see voters act in their own best interests.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:21 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


Seriously encouraging story!
However, the second to last paragraph gave me pause.
"[...]but that still leaves a lot of debt for someone who makes less than $40,000 a year running a 10-officer department."

Less than $40,000!? For realz?
Is this a common salary for police chiefs in US small towns?
It seems insultingly low for somebody who is a) responsible for peoples safety, b) managing 10 people, c) probably on call 24/7/365.
posted by AxelT at 11:42 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Is Moore able to sue Bullard for the $20,000?
posted by converge at 11:48 PM on July 22


I dunno. My 6-y.-o. recently told me that when she grows up she can marry her best female friend (and I quote) "now that the same-sex marriage ban has been repealed."

When I was about five I remember having a series of protracted arguments with my (also male) best friend about which one of us would wear the dress when we got married. These kids and their new-fangled notions sure have it easy these days.
posted by Ned G at 1:49 AM on July 23 [11 favorites]


Within days of Moore's termination, the town council passed a vote of confidence in her. They also set up an election that would strip the mayor of his power and give them more authority, including the ability to hire the police chief.

Last month, 69 percent of 475 voters approved of taking the mayor's power away. Now essentially a figurehead, it's not clear what he is going to do next. He ran unopposed in 2013 and still has three years left on his term.

Since the story made headlines, Bullard said he had received a stack of hate mail that was "probably an inch-and-a-half thick."


What Bullard does in his day now sounds like a tv show to me. One of you Yankees should write it up.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:14 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Is Moore able to sue Bullard for the $20,000?

At the time of the firing, Bullard was acting within his powers as Mayor (no matter how asshattish it was). If Moore sued, she would probably have to sue the town as a corporation, and not the individual, which could very well turn the populace against her.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:03 AM on July 23


Bullard: "You can't explain to a five-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies."

Yeah, well maybe, just maybe, that hypothetical five-year-old doesn't care what two adults (be they m/f, m/m, f/f) do in bed: all the kid cares about is some version of 'my daddy makes me pick up my toys off the driveway, if you have two mommies & no daddy, does that mean you get to leave your toys on the driveway?' or maybe 'my mommy makes cookies, if you have two daddies who makes your cookies?' People aren't explaining hetero sex positions to a kindergartener (at least I hope not!), so why in the world would Bullard think it'd be appropriate to say anything more than "That's Miss Crystal's girlfriend" to that same kindergartener?

And as for suing the jerk for her $20K in legal fees: Bullard was, dammit, acting in his capacity as mayor, although it was a totally idiotic move. As Thorzdad says, suing him would mean basically suing the town, and since 1. the townspeople totally support the police chief and have come down like a ton of bricks on Bullard, plus 2. per the article, the town's population is about 1,400, so it'd be pretty expensive for such a small town, and 3. suing the town would mean that, at the least, it would turn those townpeople --- her supporters and lifelong neighbors, who have already freely donated $8K and who are planning a fundraiser to cover the other $12K --- against her.
posted by easily confused at 5:35 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I suppose we could all kick in to help Crystal with her bills.

My thought on this was that bigots are afraid of the unknown. So if you describe some sort of gay boogy-person, YES, naturally they're against THAT. But if it's actually someone you know, someone you grew up with, well, that's different.

I'm glad the folks of Latta stood up for Crystal. That's the right thing to do. I'm not sure if it was a gay-rights thing, or a "Hey! That's Crystal!" thing.

Either way, congrats, and hopefully as people learn about each other, there will be less and less bigotry in the world.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:42 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I think I was eight or nine when my step mom introduced me to her best friend, Tim, and told me he was gay. Tim was from a small town in north Mississippi. He drank beer out of a can, had a beard, and laughed a lot. In other words, he was a lot like my dad's friends. It pisses me off when bigots lay their own shit at the feet of their kids. What are you afraid of? That your kids will be a bigger man or woman about it than you are?
posted by echocollate at 6:09 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Less than $40,000!? For realz?

Outside of cities, notably with high costs of living, $40,000 isn't an insignificant salary, particularly in towns as small as this one. (Not saying she doesn't deserve a raise, cause I think she should probably earn more)
posted by Atreides at 6:28 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


86% of the folks in that town voted to ban [already-banned] gay marriage 8 years ago. I wonder what that number would be today. My money has it still in the 80's, but maybe that's uncharitable.
posted by ftm at 6:53 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


The population of Latta SC is 1400. This is like Mayberry.
posted by bukvich at 7:22 AM on July 23


Ricochet : that's the United Church for you. What other church on the planet allows Ministers who don't believe that there's a god to keep their jobs? Gotta love the United Church, it's like Opposite Day baptist revival tents.
posted by Yowser at 8:19 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


"You can't explain to a 5-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies," he said, unaware of how little that said about the intelligence and abilities of 5-year-olds and how much it said about his own.
posted by brundlefly at 8:48 AM on July 23 [3 favorites]


Calling Doug Stanhope. Calling Doug Stanhope. Ok I'm not, but someone else should. The Stanhope burner phone is (520)366-1078
posted by Yowser at 9:07 AM on July 23


I was surprised that a police chief makes less than 40K a year.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:17 AM on July 23


Less than $40,000!? For realz?

Latta's in Dillon County. The median household income of Dillon County is under 30k and about 30% of Dillon residents live under the poverty line1. Latta is in the so-called "Corridor of Shame." I doubt if there are many people in Latta who see more than 40K a year.

Interestingly, while—like the rest of the state—it's a pretty conservative area, isn't the most conservative part of the state. I wonder if it'd been a different story had this happened in Belton or Boiling Springs.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:54 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


What other church on the planet allows Ministers who don't believe that there's a god to keep their jobs?

Clearly you haven't spent much time with Episcopal ministers lately.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:51 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


I am perfectly willing to believe that a person can at the same time have no problem with gay people per se while also believing that marriage should be limited to heterosexual relationships only. Those same people who reinstated her as the police chief might even now oppose her right to marry another woman. This is not even a huge source of cognitive dissonance, since the discussion is not necessarily framed the same way for everyone.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 12:57 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Ricochet : that's the United Church for you. What other church on the planet allows Ministers who don't believe that there's a god to keep their jobs?

Unitarian Universalists. Speaking of which, my mother's UU church (aka the "synagogue of Satan") was disrupted by anti-choice protestors on Sunday. To my surprise it's getting some national attention (I've seen it on Wonkette and Maddow at least).
posted by brundlefly at 1:21 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I would submit that if you want to see someone treated as a second class citizen, you have a problem with that person by definition. But I understand that's its whole own debate.
posted by ftm at 1:52 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I was surprised that a town of 1400 has a 10-officer police force. Maybe they're that bad actor town on the state highway that nabs everyone on their way to Myrtle Beach - in between cleaning up after natural disasters...?
posted by sagwalla at 2:07 PM on July 23


I was surprised that a town of 1400 has a 10-officer police force.

I mean, they're not all working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If there were two officers on duty at any given time, then that's 168 hours in a week/5 pairs of officers=each pair of officers working 34ish hours a week.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:42 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Thank you Atreides and octobersurprise.
As an outside observer, it's all too easy to forget that what one reads about conditions in NYC, Seattle, SF, LA et al. is not always representative conditions in the USA at large.
posted by AxelT at 5:09 AM on July 24


Several of my friends go to that UU church in New Orleans too. What happened was scary and disgusting.
posted by Corinth at 9:01 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


"I don't like the homosexual ways portrayed in front of children...You can't explain to a 5-year-old why another child has two mommies or two daddies."

Full equality for LGBTQ people is simply about fairness. If there's one thing 5-year-olds really, really understand it's fairness. That mayor needs some remedial kindergartening.
posted by marsha56 at 5:18 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


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