Andre Cooley played by the rules. He was a juvenile corrections officer for the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office. Mississippi isn’t known for being gay friendly and it’s one of 29 states where it’s legal to be fired for being gay, so Cooley pretended he wasn’t. He lowered his voice. He changed his mannerisms. He blended. That is, until he became a victim of domestic violence. After that, he was fired.
On June 14, 2010, when he says his boyfriend became violent in his apartment, Cooley called the police. He didn’t think twice about it — not until a colleague responded to the call. That led Cooley’s bosses at the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office to find out about his sexual orientation. Three days later, despite the fact that he was listed as the victim in a police report and was off duty at the time, he was fired.
Cooley said it’s because his boss found out he’s gay.
Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said Cooley was not fired because he is gay but because he had called police about more than one domestic dispute. The same could have happened to a woman who reported abuse by a man, he said.
Here’s the video:
By forcing him into the closet, the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department relegated Cooley to a life as a second class citizen. Cooley, was a taxpayer. As such, he was as entitled to the use of the Sheriff’s Department as anyone else.
Perhaps the Sheriff’s Department was right and he was not fired for being gay. Perhaps the Sheriff’s Department even knew. Perhaps they felt they had the perfect employee, who like an undocumented worker, wouldn’t make waves for fear of being outed. Or perhaps as according to Occam’s Razor, the answer is simply that he was fired for being who he is. Perhaps he should have simply let his partner beat the crap out of him, as should women, at least according to the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department.
Mississippi’s residents, like residents of most states, value freedom, but “freedom” is an empty word as long as some Mississippians are afraid to call the cops – afraid to be honest about who they are, without fear of losing everything.
Cooley was eventually rehired with a financial reward and back pay. Forrest County now bans discrimination, but discrimination is still legal in the state of Mississippi.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|