Apology makes a difference to teacher fired for being gay

TACOMA, Wash. - It was 42 years ago that Jim Gaylord lost his job as a teacher for being gay. On Sunday, members of the Tacoma School Board came back with a long overdue apology.

Gaylord was welcomed as a guest of honor at a fundraising event for Oasis Youth Center, a safe haven for gay teenagers in Tacoma. Members of the center said Gaylord inspired them because he embraced being gay in a time when the world was stacked against him.

In 1972, Gaylord worked as a social studies teacher at Wilson High School, until he was fired because of his sexual orientation. Gaylord sued and his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he ultimately lost.

Tacoma School Board President Kurt Miller said the firing was rooted in prejudice, and in no way reflects the values of the district today.

"On behalf of the board, staff, students and families of the Tacoma School District, I offer a sincere apology to Mr. Jim Gaylord," Miller said.

Gaylord then took the stage, and said he never thought he'd see this day.

"The impact of doing the right thing just cannot be overestimated," he said.

The school board president said he only recently learned of Gaylord's story and knew he had to act.

"Forty-two years later, all we can do is apologize," Miller said.

"It's a kind of closure," Gaylord said. "Over the years I've been able to finally start looking back at it, the situation, without feeling too bad. I think this completes the process."

Gaylord also had a message for the youth in the audience.

"Many of us in Tacoma have made history, and we need you to carry forward the work," he said.