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Police chief and supporters say firing was due to discrimination

A veteran police chief who was recently fired by a city's mayor believes she was terminated because she is a lesbian. Her termination was met with picketing and prayer vigils by citizens of the small community on her behalf. It also prompted the town's city council to strip some of the mayor's powers. If this sounds like a reaction that would occur in a liberal Southern California city, our readers might be surprised to learn that it has happened in a small South Carolina town.

The former police chief reportedly received seven reprimands from the city's new mayor, who took office in December. She says these were the first she had received in her 20-plus years on the job. Among them were allegations that she questioned authority and did not maintain order.

The former police chief's allegations of discrimination are backed up by others. One city council member produced an audio tape of the mayor on a homophobic tirade. Among his comments was a statement that "I would much rather have .... somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than…somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children."

The case has gained media attention far beyond South Carolina. The Human Rights Campaign has used her case to reassert its call for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prohibit termination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation throughout the country. The HRC has noted that it is still legal in more than half the states in this country to terminate an employee for these reasons. It noted that without such legislation, "a decorated police chief is left to fend for herself."

The former chief said, "I can't believe that we still have no equal rights. That's the biggest issue." She noted that up until now, her sexual orientation was never a public matter. She said, "I'd tried living a quiet decent life and do what I'm supposed to."

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees can be found in California and throughout the country, regardless of state laws. Any LGBT employee who believes that he or she was fired for their gender identity or sexual orientation should seek legal advice to determine what their legal options are. By fighting such discrimination in court, employees can seek justice for themselves and help prevent such discrimination against other employees.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Mayor Who Fired Lesbian Police Chief Caught On Tape In Homophobic Tirade" Jennifer Bendery, Apr. 19, 2014

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