It's becoming easier for openly gay people to live their lives in the United States, as people are more accepting of non-heterosexual orientations than ever before. Unfortunately, there are still people who give LGBTQ individuals a hard time for being gay, which is especially true for Scott Phillips-Gartner, an openly gay firefighter in Norfolk, Virginia, who was harassed at work and was ultimately made to take an early retirement, according to the Virginian Pilot.
Phillips-Gartner had been working for the Norfolk Fire Squad since 1991 as a telecommunications officer and in the subsequent year became a firefighter. In 2013 he was promoted to Assistant Fire Marshal. During his time as a firefighter, he also worked as a senior member of the bomb squad.
But when he married his longtime boyfriend in 2014, things began to take a turn.
After working for the fire department for twenty-three years and after his employer found out that he was gay, Scott was stripped of his ranking and relocated to a temporary facility miles away from his office in Norfolk with "little to no job duties."
Phillips-Gartner has filed a lawsuit against the city of Norfolk, saying that after people found out that he was gay that they created a hostile work environment. The suit alleges that Phillips-Gartner was a respected member of the department until the news of his marriage was spread.
Battalion Chief Roger Burris verbally harassed Phillips-Gartner and treated him poorly in contrast to his heterosexual colleagues throughout 2015. In a staff meeting during the same year, Burris called out Scott's homosexuality, asking "where is Ms. Gartner?" This is one of my biggest pet peeves, as Burris attempted to delegitimize Phillips-Gartner's relationship by saying that his GAY relationship needed a woman.
Scott complained about how he was being treated. Fire Chief Jeffrey Wise began to investigate what happened, but instead of rectifying the situation, Wise belittled Phillips-Gartner during the first quarter of 2016.
Wise also stripped Phillips-Gartner of his law enforcement powers in March of 2017, as well as taking away his city firearm, computer, and cell phone and told him that he can no longer drive the city car or attend bomb squad training.
The reason for his demotion was apparently that he obtained a service dog without proper documentation, but from the information provided above, I suspect that it was for a much more nefarious reason…
Phillips-Gartner was forced to take an early retirement because, as the suit says, that Wise wanted to fire him. He put in for retirement on December 7th, 2017. His last day was January 31st, 2018. It's good that Phillips-Gartner is takinh action against the harrassment and eventual forced retirement, but it should not have happened in the first place.
Scott marrying another man has nothing to do with how excellent he was in his position.
h/t: Virginian Pilot