Andre Cooley, a corrections officer for juvenile detainees at the Sheriff’s Department in Forrest County, Mississippi, was fired when his supervisors discovered that he was gay.
On June 14, 2010 while at home and off-duty, Andre called 911 after his boyfriend became physically violent. One of Andre’s supervisors was among the officers responding to the call and learned at that time of Andre’s sexual orientation. The day after the incident, for which Andre was identified in the police report as the “victim,” Andre learned that despite having an exemplary record, he was being fired from his job. When Andre asked if he was being fired because he was gay, he was told “yes.”
Most people in Mississippi who work for private companies have no legal protections from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But because the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department is a governmental entity, the Constitution protects Andre and other employees from anti-gay discrimination. The ACLU is suing the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department, Chief Bolton, Sheriff Billy McGee and Staff Sergeant Brannon for violating Andre’s equal protection and due process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment.