South Carolina Town Rallies Behind Gay Police Chief


“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 way it’s supposed to be.” — Latta, S.C. Mayor Earl Bullard

In her multi-layered children’s story “The Ideas Peddler,” Canadian author Sarah Ellis tells the tale of the traveling peddler who arrives at Aberbog, a tidy seaside village, with no wares in sight; only “whims, concepts, plans, opinions, impressions, notions, and fancies”.

After a slow start, the peddler begins doing a brisk business as citizens come to know and trust him.

But whether it’s his unique way of plying his trade, or the swell of town folk who have taken his lead and can’t seem to stop generating ideas of their own, the peddler soon receives a visit from Aberbog’s cranky and controlling mayor.

Accusing the stranger of insolence and disturbing the peace, the mayor pressures the town council into backing him and dispatches Aberbog’s police officer to evict the peddler. But the peddler has vanished.

The story ends with the citizenry up in arms over the mayor’s behavior. They do some dispatching of their own. They suggest the mayor move on to the next town.

If there’s an award for the best 2014 life-imitates-art story, it has to go to 69% of the voters in the small, conservative hamlet of Latta, S.C.

Latta is a sleepy Southern burg of 1,400, better known for its tobacco, railroad history and annual Springfest than grassroots gay rights activism. (Voters eight years ago registered near-total support for a South Carolina amendment banning same-sex marriage.)

Yet in a plot twist straight out of Mayberry, the town has gained international kudos for choosing character over prejudice.

For the past 20 years, Latta born and bred Crystal Moore has served her hometown as a member of its police force, eventually rising to the rank of chief – the first woman to do so. During that time the openly gay Moore has earned a reputation for regularly going above and beyond the call to duty.

But Moore’s tenure was interrupted last April when she was presented with seven reprimands and fired by Latta’s mayor, Earl Bullard. (Bullard cited insubordination as the central cause for disciplinary action.)

Moore publicly protested her firing and was soon joined by city council members convinced Bullard’s long-simmering resentments toward Moore were motivation for her dismissal.

The council voted 6-1 to place before Latta’s citizens a referendum transferring the bulk of governing power from the mayor to the council; effectively creating a council-centered system and stripping Bullard of most of his duties.

The vote took place in June. The referendum passed with a 69% majority.

Crystal Moore is back on the job. Mayor Bullard is a figurehead.

And the 2014 Aberbog award goes to Latta, S.C.

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Email

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2014

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