Anchorage LGBTQ community encouraged by SCOTUS ruling

Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 6:56 PM AKDT
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Monday morning Alaskans in the LGBTQ community were greeted with welcome news - the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that employers discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation violated federal law.

For Samuel Ohana, a transmasculine person in Anchorage, the decision was long awaited.

"I was super shocked and I was like - wait what? I'm waking up to good news? This is fantastic," Ohana said.

Six years ago Ohana was working as a case manager when he began to transition.

"As much as I loved the job and as much as I loved my coworkers and the company and especially my clients, the people that I worked with just seemed to be unable to wrap themselves around using he/him pronouns for me and referring to me a mister, which is what is appropriate for me," Ohana said.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court, wrote the majority opinion. Ohana described that fact as a "pleasant surprise."

"My hope is that everybody will be treated fairly and equally and be given consideration based on the job they do and the work and the skills that they have, not something based on the person that they love or their gender," Ohana said.

Although the ruling is a win for the LGBTQ community, advocates say there is still more work to be done.

"It's a big deal," Jonathon Taylor, a board member of Alaskans Together for Equality said. "There used to be this saying that you could get married on Saturday, honeymoon on Sunday, and get fired from your job on Monday, because there was no federal protection for LGBTQ+ people when it came to the work place. Now we've cleared that hurdle but I think there's a lot more work for us to do to make sure that all people are actually equal under the law."

While some local governments have laws that apply non-discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation to areas beyond those specified in federal law, Taylor says LGBTQ people lack equal rights in many other areas.

"This is not a decision that applies to public accommodations, so LGBTQ+ people can still be denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in places where there aren't non-discrimination laws in effect," Taylor said. "This is one step down that road, but it is by no means sort of the end of the work that's left to do."

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