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Central Coast LGBTQ community celebrates Supreme Court ruling

Michael Barros/KCBX
Doug Heumann, chair of Tranz Central Coast, speaks at GALA's celebration rally in San Luis Obispo.

While the Trump Administration has worked to dismantle protections for transgender people, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which bans discrimination in employment on the basis of characteristics like race, religion and national origin—extends to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Just a few days before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the federal Department of Health and Human Services rolled back Obama-era protections that banned health care providers from denying care to trans patients.

While the court’s rule was specifically pertaining to employment discrimination, many people expect the court’s interpretation to carry over into other areas, like housing and healthcare, potentially voiding many of the Trump administration’s efforts against transgender people.

“After the announcement from the Supreme Court, I really do feel like things are going to change,” said Ciana Carmela Costa from San Luis Obispo’s GALA Pride and Diversity Center.

Prior to the ruling, it was legal in 29 states to fire a person on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In an email to KCBX news, local professor Camille O’ Bryant said she is glad about the high court’s ruling, but also said there’s more work to do, because racism is alive and well— including within the LGBTQ community.

“I will say that as a woman of color who identifies as a lesbian, I am glad that the Supreme Court’s ruling will help strengthen civil rights for LGLBTQ people,” O’Bryant said. “But, I know the intersections of race and ethnicity with gender identity and expression and sexual orientation is still something that we will need to continue pushing for. The murders of trans women of color don’t seem to spark the same outrage or media attention as they should… Well, they should not be murdered in the first place.”

“I woke up this morning and I was just so delighted,” said Jamie Woolf, chair of Tranz Central Coast. “In fact I was so excited that I actually started to cry a little.”

Woolf said Monday was the most hopeful she’s ever felt about transgender equality.

“During Obama, the [U.S.] attorney general announced that she was going to defend transgender people with all of her might, and that was the day that I felt great,” Woolf said. “But you know, this is the Supreme Court.”

According to the LGBTQ media advocacy non-profit GLAAD, the unemployment rate of trans people of color is four times the national average, while for white trans people, it’s three times the national average.

Rory Amunrud said they are feeling better about applying to jobs after seeing the results of the ruling.

“I’ve been searching for lots of jobs lately, and I’ve gone back and forth so many times about whether or not to add my pronouns to my resume and now I feel like I can add them with confidence,” said Amunrud. “It’s about time we had some good news.”

Some advocates say even though it is now illegal to fire people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, it will still be difficult to prove the basis of their firing, especially for employees with at-will contracts.

Michael Barros is a reporter in the KCBX Newsroom. He has a degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, where he spent two years reporting for the campus news outlet, Mustang Media. He spent several months as an intern for NPR's All Things Considered in Washington D.C. Michael covers breaking news for daily newscasts, and creates features for the local broadcast of All Things Considered and Morning Edition. When he's not reporting, he's probably hammocking in a forest or painting.
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