Mississippi Sheriff’s Office Decides Firing André Cooley For Being Gay Is Not, In Fact, Kosher

André Cooley, the Mississippi corrections officer fired in June for being gay, and who was then told by brass at the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department that it was perfectly legal to do so, will get his job back — after the ACLU threatened legal action on his behalf. Cooley’s sexuality was revealed when his supervisor at the time responded to a domestic violence dispute between Cooley and his partner; the following day his supervisor terminated him, admitting it was because Cooley is gay. A settlement reached between Forrest County and Cooley allows him to come back to work, and also has the department updating its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation (the sheriff’s department first in the state to do so). Oh, and Cooley got some cash for his troubles, too.

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  • Cam

    He’ll be driven out of the job soon enough. Remember, the Mississippi school that was ordered to let the lesbian teen attend the prom, they then secretly held another prom. They’ll trump up some phony charges against this guy.

  • Fred

    I’m happy that at least someone is standing up for what they believe in!

  • Mike

    Cam, not all of Mississippi is made equal. Forrest County is home to Hattiesburg, a city with one of the highest proportions of GLBTs in the state. It is also home to the University of Southern Mississippi, which is probably one of the most progressive universities in the state (definitely more so than Ole Miss!).

    I run Mississippi’s only GLBT magazine and we interviewed Andre Cooley about the situation in our November 2010 issue. We are so happy that things turned out well and it brings us hope that, little by little, Mississippi will be a truly safe place for all of its citizens, including GLBTs.

  • Cam


    Thanks for the info. The constance McMillian situation made me incredibly cynical about movement in Mississippi, as did this situation. I’m glad it was resolved and glad to see that you’re down there fighting the good fight!

  • Mike

    @Cam: The sad part about Mississippi, and really a lot of the Deep South, is that you’re not going to change a lot of people’s minds. The way most of us were raised down here…it takes something like a gay kid in their own families to make them re-evaluate what the church tells them about gays. Even then some people can’t deal with it and they throw away their kids (how you can be a loving parent and just toss your kid out is beyond me).

    I came out 10 years ago and had a really acrimonious relationship with my mother for the first couple of years, but my entire family has come around.

    It was actually my parents who gave me the idea to start a GLBT magazine for the Deep South…for a lot of the area we cover, nothing like it had ever been attempted. We may not change every mind but it’s important for GLBTs to know they do have a voice and there are other people here who just want to live their lives with dignity.

  • TampaZeke

    @Mike: Mike, please give some references to back up your claim that Southern is “definitely” more “progressive” than Ole Miss.

    I was born and raised in Oxford and am an Ole Miss alumnus. I don’t believe your claim is accurate but more likely based on your own biases.

  • Thom Freeheart

    I teach at a high school in Mississippi. We have had gay couples at prom and nothing was made of it. Nobody really cared.

  • Anna C

    As a student at southern and long-time member of the GSA, I can safely say that USM is pretty progressive, specifically with queer kids. As far as Ole Miss is concerned my experiences have said that as a whole Oxford is less friendly than Hattiesburg. Not too mention we have a tremendous population of LGBT and queer identified groups. Oh and the Phelps clan came to protest Southern years ago so we must be doing something right lol.

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