BY JEFFREY COLLINS
LATTA, S.C. -- When openly gay police chief Crystal Moore was fired by a mayor who condemned her lifestyle as "questionable," she expected her two decade career in law enforcement was over.
Then, this conservative, small town rebelled.
The people of Latta, who voted overwhelmingly for a state amendment banning gay marriage eight years ago, turned against the mayor, stripped him of his powers and rehired Moore. They said her dedication to the town mattered more than her sexual orientation.
Residents remembered Moore's civic spirit from as far back as 1989, when Hurricane Hugo tore through Latta. She was a high school student working part time as a police dispatcher, and helped cut downed tree limbs to clean up the debris. This February, when an ice storm crippled the town and left it without power for days, Moore piled her officers in her SUV and checked on as many people as she could.
"That's Crystal. All she does is help people. I don't get why he fired her. Maybe it's the ignorant people who talk the loudest. She was the same great Crystal yesterday as she is today, and she'll be the same person tomorrow," said lifelong Latta resident Dottie Walters.
Mayor Earl Bullard vehemently denied that he fired Moore because she was gay. Instead, he said she was dismissed for "sheer insubordination" during the three months he was her boss.