ATLANTA — The city's fire chief was relieved of his duties Tuesday after he published controversial comments about homosexuality in a book.
In the self-published book titled "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" Kelvin Cochran referred to homosexuality as "unclean," "a sexual perversion," "vulgar" and "inappropriate."
Cochran received a monthlong suspension in November. At the time, Mayor Kasim Reed said, "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens — regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."
At a news conference Tuesday, Reed announced Cochran had been "relieved" of his position.
"Not one time during the course of preparing this book did Chief Cochran ever think that it was appropriate to have a conversation with me despite the fact that I have made my opinion — and this administration's opinion — clear on this topic," Reed said.
Reed said Cochran was given an opportunity to resign and refused. "Bottom line, he was terminated," Reed said.
Still in uniform after the news conference, Cochran told reporters, "I'm not apologetic for writing the book."
He said he will not hide his Christian faith.
"Everything I wrote in the book is based on scriptures, not my opinions," said Cochran.
Cochran said he only learned that he was losing his job about an hour before the news conference.
"LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their belief regarding sexual orientation and deserve to be respected for their position without hate and discrimination, but Christians also have the right to express their beliefs as well," said Cochran.
Cochran said that he ran the idea of the book by the city's ethics department and didn't receive any pushback. He said that he gave Reed copy of the book a year ago.
Alex Wan, the only openly gay member of Atlanta's City Council, supported Reed's decision.
"I support the administration's decision to terminate Kelvin Cochran's employment with the City of Atlanta," Wan said in a released statement. "This sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment.
Wan's statement said Cochran's suspension came after some of Cochran's employees complained about internal distribution of his self-published book. Reed would not discuss details of the investigation.
Reed said that the Fire and Rescue Command staff and his Cabinet will undergo sensitivity training.
"We wanted the city to take strong, decisive action which today they've done," said Stephen Borders, president Atlanta Professional Firefighters.
Borders took his colleagues' complaints about Cochran's book to city officials before the controversy went public.
"It was the fire chief. He is our judge, and our jury, and our executioner when it comes to (discipline). He is the ultimate representative of the city when it comes to public safety," Borders said.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition posted a call to action on its website, asking members to contact the mayor demanding Cochran be reappointed.
"In our country we don't punish people for the potential to discriminate we punish them for actually discriminating. To our knowledge unless the mayor knows about it and hasn't said so there's no allegation to speak of," explained spokesperson Robert Potts.
However, Reed did not list discrimination as cause for termination. He said Cochran violated the city's code of conduct in releasing the book.
"This is about how we treat one another. And so those folks who are calling me and telling me I should retain him. I just want you to know one thing. His religious decisions are not the basis of the problem. His judgement is the basis of the problem,” Reed said.
Julie Wolfe, WXIA-TV, Atlanta