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Lesbian deputy sheriff was fired ‘because she’s a gay woman’. She’s about to win her old boss’ seat on a boldly queer platform

Emma Powys Maurice October 16, 2020
Charmaine McGuffey

Charmaine McGuffey is campaigning to become the first female and out LGBT+ sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio (Twitter/@CharmMcGuffey)

After enduring years of homophobic bullies, major Charmaine McGuffey is done hiding her sexuality.

The woman poised to become Ohio’s first female LGBT+ sheriff is putting with her lesbian identity front and centre, beginning with a powerful new campaign ad that highlights the discrimination she’s overcome.

The stirring video opens with a scene of McGuffey walking into a police bathroom to find the slur “dyke” scrawled on the cubicle door.

“I’ve never been an insider,” she admits. “I wasn’t just a woman working in law enforcement. I was a gay woman — that made me a target, a threat. But overcoming the impossible, well, that’s what I’ve done my entire life.”

Over the course of her career McGuffey worked her way up the ranks to become the first female major in Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. As she pushed to move the office towards reform and rehabilitation, she took the county jail from the worst-ranked in Ohio to the best in just three years.

And she did it all while enduring homophobic discrimination from Hamilton county sheriff Jim Neil, she says.

“His way [of law enforcement was] excessive force, harassment, and zero accountability,” she declares in the video. “When I stood up I was told to go with the flow. I refused to stand by silently and ultimately, it cost me my job.”

Charmaine McGuffey knocked her old boss out of the Democratic primary.

In March this year Charmaine McGuffey launched a lawsuit against her former boss, claiming he fired her because she is a woman and a lesbian. Neil denies this, claiming that she was fired because she created a hostile work environment and bullied colleagues.

She decided to go a step further by running against him in the Democratic primary for sheriff — and won an astounding 70 per cent of the vote.

“I’m running for sheriff because I know we can do better,” she says as the ad shows footage of Black Lives Matter protestors. “In my 33 years as a police officer, I’ve seen justice and I’ve seen injustice. But I also know what it feels like to be targeted for who I am and not for something I’ve done.

“There are systemic issues that we can no longer ignore.”

She accuses her Republican opponent, Bruce Hoffbauer, of being “unfit for the job and for this moment” because of his history of excessive force, his shooting and killing of an unarmed Black man, and his serving on a police unit notorious for terrorising communities of colour.

“From notes on the bathroom door to abuse at the very top, I’ve taken on bullies like him my entire career. I stood up to homophobia and sexism, I’ve torn down barriers that were designed to keep people like me from ever getting a fair shot.”

The ad ends with McGuffey proclaiming: “The courage to do what’s right and just, no matter how difficult it may be, that’s what history is calling us to do, and that’s the kind of sheriff I’ll be.”

More: Charmaine McGuffey, Hamilton County, lesbian, Ohio, sheriff

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