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Local LGBTQ+ advocates react to Supreme Court ruling

Posted at 9:39 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 22:57:16-04

LAFAYETTE — Local advocates for the LGBTQ+ community are reacting to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that employers cannot fire someone because of their sexual orientation and that people who are fired can sue.

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch, a President Donald Trump appointee, said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from firing someone for being gay or transgender.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Gorsuch and the court's four liberal justices in the majority.

The decision is one that LGBTQ+ rights activists have been awaiting for decades.

"What the Supreme Court decision really does is that it actually gives that recognition and provides for those legal protections that I know so many of us have been working so incredibly hard for," said Stephen Handwerk, who has championed for LGBTQ equality for more than 20 years.

Among those in Acadiana who will be protected under the new federal law is Peyton Michelle.

Like many, she says the news was a pleasant surprise.

"I sat in front of my window on the floor in my room just kind of in shock for probably 30-45 minutes," said Michelle, who is the director of operations for Louisiana Trans Advocates.

Michelle says she didn't start working until she was 21-years-old because she was afraid she would be discriminated against for being a transgender woman.

"The whole idea of having to put myself out there and be judged in that way was really terrifying," said Michelle.

She works for a Baton Rouge-based marketing agency and now feels even more at ease with the new ruling.

"It's been really amazing. I've never been in a place where I felt so respected and supported," explained Michelle.

Although Michelle says this is a big step for LGBTQ equality, she insists the fight is not yet over; however, there are ways the public can help.

"Education is the top priority. In my experience, everyone that doesn't like me because I'm trans will change that opinion after a 15-minute conversation with me," said Michelle.

If you're interested in learning more about the LGBTQ+ community or supporting the community, there are several organizations that can help, like Louisiana Trans Advocates or PFLAG Lafayette.