Fired for Being Gay or Domestic Violence?

HattiesburgBy Dawn Cranfield

Fired for Being Gay or Domestic Violence Dispute – Either Way it is Just Wrong

Andre Cooley of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a juvenile corrections officer claims he was fired for being gay.  The 27-year-old man says he always covered up the fact that he was in a same-sex relationship because of the nature of his job; he would lower his voice, talk less with his hands, and pretend to be straight, “all to protect himself”.  (

However, in June of 2010, his bosses at the Forrest County Sherriff’s Office found out about his relationship that he had tried so diligently to hide when his boyfriend became violent in his apartment and Cooley was forced to call the police.  A colleague responded to the call and three days later when Cooley was listed as a victim in the police report, he was fired from his post.

“Cooley said it’s because his boss found out he’s gay. ‘From one day to the next you can have the best life, and at any point it can be taken away,’ Cooley told CNN reporter John D. Sutter, ‘just on the fact that you’re gay.’” (

Conversely, Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee denies the claim and opines Cooley was fired because he had called the police in more than one domestic violence dispute.  He continues to explain that it could have happened to a woman in a heterosexual relationship.  Interesting theory and way to run a department, terminate employees who have domestic trouble.

According to Cooley, a supervisor told him directly he was fired because of his sexual orientation.  Still, Sheriff McGee would not comment on Cooley’s assertion.

Sutter’s CNN extensive article asserts that Mississippi is one of 28 states that allow termination of employees based on their sexual equality-bill1orientation.

However, because Cooley was a government employee, he was able to sue the county and regain his employment.  Additionally, he helps bring a level of awareness regarding discrimination to his community that did not exist before.  But, what of other LGBT individuals working for the private sector?  Where is their protection?

“According to studies from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, between 15 and 43 percent of LGBT people have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace as a result of their sexual orientation.” (

Experiencing discrimination for being gay, transgender, black, female, or anything other than what is the majority in the environment you are seeking to belong is heart wrenching at best.  But, to be terminated for something because you are perceived as being different by somebody who is intolerant should be illegal.  The problem is that people are human and imperfect and they are always going to backpedal and pretend they had a different reason for giving you a pink slip.

John D. Sutter - CNN
John D. Sutter – CNN

However, you would think they would come up with something more believable than the fact that you were the victim of a domestic violence dispute.  Our country has a long way to go in terms of equality and tolerance.


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