Homophobia in Nashville Fire Department?

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A Nashville Fire Department paramedic is under investigation after posting a Facebook rant against gay and lesbian fire department employees, with one post citing that "the queers need to crawl back into the closet."

Nashville Fire Department paramedic Kevin Kennedy was placed on administrative leave yesterday after he posted homophobic comments on Facebook.Kevin Kennedy, a paramedic with the Nashville Fire Department EMS Bureau, started a string of posts in a closed Facebook group that was part of Nashville Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Steve Meador’s page. Meador heads the Paramedic/EMS Bureau of the department. According to several sources that contacted O&AN, Kennedy directed some of his posts towards particular GLBT individuals on the department.

After department officials were made aware of the comments, Kennedy was immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation that began today.

"We have a very strict order of discipline," says Deputy Chief Kim Lawson, leader of the department’s Community Services Bureau. "This is a very dangerous and important job, and any disruption of the purview of our department is not acceptable."

Department officials will decide by next Thursday if Kennedy will be cited for misconduct. If charges are filed in the case, he could face disciplinary actions up to and including termination.

"We do not tolerate hateful statements from anyone," Lawson says. "It goes against what we stand for in the department. If they decide to move forward, the employee will be notified and will be able to present information in a meeting, and then the chief will make disciplinary action."

Although the department hasn’t made a formal announcement about the incident, the employees who were targeted in Kennedy’s messages have been addressed individually by department officials.

Christopher Sanders, chair of the Tennessee Equality Project Nashville Committee, echoes Lawson’s call for the issue to be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.

"The 2009 non-discrimination ordinance is still in effect and it appears to apply in this situation. We hope the investigation is thorough and if the findings reveal that people were discriminated against or attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we hope appropriate discipline is brought to bear," he says.