WASHINGTON -- The town council of Latta, South Carolina, reinstated Crystal Moore as police chief on Friday, ending a dramatic two-month standoff with the town's mayor after he fired Moore for reasons many believe had to do with her being a lesbian.
WPDE reporter Liz Cooper live-tweeted the council meeting and snapped a picture of Moore as she was sworn back in, to applause.
Moore had been with the Latta police department for 23 years when Mayor Earl Bullard fired her in April. Bullard, who just became mayor this year, said he fired Moore after giving her seven reprimands for questioning authority, failing to maintain order, and other reasons. Moore said she had done nothing wrong.
Shortly thereafter, an audio recording surfaced of Bullard going on a homophobic tirade, in which he said he'd prefer to leave his child with a raging alcoholic than with someone whose "lifestyle is questionable."
The conservative town of just 1,400 people was thrust into the national spotlight as hundreds of residents rallied to Moore's defense, saying that her sexual orientation had nothing to do with her ability to do her job and demanding that she get it back. They picketed outside of town hall, held prayer vigils and launched a fundraising effort to help Moore with living expenses and potential legal costs as she fought to get back to work.
"Never thought I'd have been at 4 protests for gay rights in Latta, S.C.," Wil Brown, a friend of Moore's, told The Huffington Post.
It appeared the ordeal was over on Tuesday when residents overwhelmingly voted to pass a referendum changing the governing structure of the town from “mayor-strong” to “council-strong," effectively stripping Bullard of his powers and giving the council the ability to rehire Moore. The council had planned to reinstate her as soon as the ballots were certified, but on Wednesday, Bullard surprised everyone by announcing he had just hired someone else for the job.
"I have went from being ecstatic, overwhelmed, not able to speak, to crushed again," Moore told WPDE NewsChannel 15 after Bullard's move.
Bullard, meanwhile, said it was time for the town to move on. "The town has to continue. The town has to go on, we can't dwell on what happened in the past. The only thing that we can do is try to move forward," he said. "And in that, the way to move forward is to put someone in place permanently."
Things changed again on Friday night, though, as the council determined Bullard had broken local laws by unilaterally hiring a police chief without their consent. They declared his hire invalid and immediately reinstated Moore.
Looking back on the last two months, Moore said she still can't believe someone would "snatch away" her career just because they didn't like that she was a lesbian. Bullard has denied that he fired her over her sexual orientation, but like many in her community, Moore doesn't see any other reason.
"My life was my life. I was open, but it was still private. I was doing a job," she said in a Friday interview on MSNBC, noting she only recently learned it's still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay.
"I hope the outcome of this is better for not only me but everywhere all over our nation ... that we can hopefully be treated fairly and equally," Moore said.