There is excellent news to report on the case of Andre Cooley, the former Forrest County, Mississippi Sheriff's Department officer who was "fired because he turned out to be a faggot." Cooley said his supervisors discovered he was gay when they responded to a 911 call he placed in June 2010 after his boyfriend became violent.
The Forrest County Sheriff’s Department will reinstate Andre Cooley as a deputy corrections officer as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi, in which Cooley alleged that he was fired because he is gay. As part of the settlement agreement reached today, the sheriff’s department will also update its written non-discrimination policy to make explicit that the sheriff’s department does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
"I am looking forward to returning to a job that I loved in the sheriff’s department," Cooley said. "I’m very happy that the sheriff’s department has clarified in writing that they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Everyone should be judged by their ability to do the job, not by their sexual orientation."
"We are happy to have Mr. Cooley return to work in the department. His sexual orientation has no bearing on his ability to perform the duties of a corrections officer," said Sheriff Billy McGee. "The Forrest County Sheriff’s Department is an equal opportunity employer, and we do not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Our new written policy will make this position clear to every employee in our department."
The settlement agreement includes a monetary amount for Cooley, the ACLU adds.
The reinstatement and non-discrimination policy is a huge win. Last December, you may recall the Forrest County Sheriff responded to the ACLU complaint and said they did absolutely nothing wrong—wait for it—because "no federal or state law exists in regard to firings over sexual orientation."
Congrats to Officer Cooley and the ACLU. And the case is yet another reminder of why we need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.