Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed terminated the city's fire chief Monday, the same day the chief, Kelvin Cochran, was slated to return to work following a 30-day unpaid suspension for publishing an antigay book that the mayor said violated the city's nondiscrimination policy.
Reed announced Cochran's dismissal at a packed press conference in Atlanta, reports the LGBT outlet GA Voice, explaining that Cochran's religious beliefs surrounding homosexuality were not what led to his termination, but rather his insistence on promoting those beliefs in a book he authored that equated homosexuality with bestiality, in addition to including anti-Jewish and antiwomen sentiments. Reed offered Cochran the opportunity to resign, but when he refused, Reed fired him.
Reed explained that Cochran's decision to self-publish the book — titled Who Told You That You Were Naked? — violated the city's standard of conduct, and made the mayor question the chief's ability to lead an inclusive workforce that abides by the city's nondiscrimination ordinance (which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as other characteristics).
"His actions around the book, his statements during the investigation, eroded my confidence in conveying that message," Reed said at the press conference, according to GA Voice. Reed appointed Deputy Chief Joel C. Baker as Atlanta's interim fire chief.
Reed explained that he was frustrated by Cochran's publishing of the book without consulting the mayor's office, since the mayor is the "person who signs your [pay]check" as fire chief.
Further, Cochran's lack of contrition — GA Voice reports he spoke at religious events about his suspension after he was placed on leave November 24 — confirmed to Reed that Cochran was not equipped to manage a diverse force.
"His personal religious beliefs are not the issue at all, despite the number of comments and emails I have been receiving on a daily basis," Reed said."His judgment and ability to manage the department was the subject of this inquiry."
“And let me speak from my heart for a minute," Reed continued. "This is about judgment. I don’t think anyone who works in a business could make a decision [like publishing a book] and never talk to the leader of that organization, which is me. Not one time … did he ever think it appropriate to have conversation [with] me despite the position I and my administration have [on LGBT issues and nondiscrimination]."
Although he initially seemed hesitant to openly support LGBT equality, Reed endorsed marriage equality in December 2012, acknowledging his evolution on the issue. While announcing his intent to sign a resolution from the City Council endorsing the freedom to marry, Reed said he had listened to the stories of LGBT families and become convinced that same-sex marriage is a "fundamental right."
In 2010, Reed pledged to investigate an alleged cover-up of a 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle gay bar that saw officers force patrons to the ground and use antigay slurs. The investigation found evidence of police misconduct and false arrests made by more than two dozen officers, most of whom lost their badges as a result. The raid ultimately led to a federal lawsuit and garnered a public apology from Mayor Reed, according to a comprehensive report compiled by the Daily Kos.
Watch the mayor's remarks at Monday's press conference below, and see excerpts from Cochran's book at the GA Voice: