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Top 10 Ga. LGBT stories of 2011: Hope, heartache and headlines

Georgia LGBT stories of the year

2011 brought several milestones likely to impact LGBT Georgians for years to come. Some are worth celebrating, like Vandy Beth Glenn’s win over transgender discrimination in the Georgia General Assembly, and the first openly gay man to serve in the state legislature.

Others, like the state’s lackluster response to HIV and Shorter College’s anti-gay staff policy, made us shake our heads and wonder how long it will be before LGBT equality comes to the Deep South.

The year also proved pivotal for several well-known local LGBT organizations and businesses — including Outwrite Bookstore, Positive Impact, MEGA Family Project and the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative — that announced major changes this year.

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Transgender editor returns to work at Ga. legislature

Vandy Beth Glenn returns to work at Gold Dome

Vandy Beth Glenn returned to work Friday as a legislative editor at the Georgia General Assembly, just days after the a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that the state violated her constitutional rights when she was fired after informing her employer she was transitioning from male to female.

Greg Nevins, the Lambda Legal attorney representing Glenn, confirmed this week that she reported back to work on Friday, Dec. 9. The 11th Circuit handed down its 3-0 ruling in favor of Glenn on Dec. 6. The federal appeals court ruling upheld U.S. District Judge Richard Story's ruling that Glenn was wrongly fired based on sex discrimination. Oral arguments before the 11th Circuit were held on Dec. 1.

Glenn also confirmed she is back at work.

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Vandy Beth Glenn may soon return to work at Ga. General Assembly

Vandy Beth Glenn and attorney Greg Nevins

A federal appeals court panel has upheld a lower court ruling that Vandy Beth Glenn was wrongly fired from her job as a legislative editor in the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her employer she planned to transition from male to female.

“The question here is whether discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her gender non-conformity constitutes sex-based discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. …We hold that it does,” the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Dec. 6, just five days after oral arguments were heard in the case.

Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote the opinion for the unanimous panel that included Judge William H. Pryor and Senior Judge Phyllis Kravitch.

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[Video] Federal appeals court offers hope in Ga. transgender woman’s job bias lawsuit

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Three judges sitting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today appeared to side with transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired from her job as a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her boss she was transitioning full-time to a woman.

"We have direct evidence of intentional discrimination," said Judge Bill Pryor.

Richard Sheinis, representing the state, argued that if Glenn was to win this case, transgender people would become a "protected class."

"That's right," Pryor and Judge Rosemary Barkett answered, almost simultaneously.

Pryor told Sheinis if he wanted to change the outcome, he should "go talk to Congress."

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Vandy Beth Glenn in court

U.S. Court of Appeals hears arguments in Ga. transgender woman's employment discrimination case today

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U.S. Court of Appeals to hear arguments in Ga. transgender woman’s employment discrimination case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear arguments in the federal discrimination lawsuit filed by a Georgia transgender woman who was fired from her state job after informing her employer she was transitioning from male to female.

Vandy Beth Glenn, represented by nonprofit LGBT legal organization Lambda Legal, sued the state of Georgia after she was fired in 2007 as a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly.

In July 2010 a federal judge ruled the state illegally discriminated against Glenn and in August the judge ordered she be reinstated back to her job. During the appeals process, however, Glenn has been receiving her 2007 salary but has not been able to return to her job.

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Transgender woman claims bias in Ga. unemployment benefits

A transgender auto mechanic claims the Georgia Department of Labor is discriminating against her by asking her to repay unemployment benefits she began receiving after she was fired by Credit Nation, a used car dealership targeting customers with credit problems.

Jennifer Chavez claims Credit Nation unfairly fired her for a minor first-time offense after she transitioned from male to female. The Georgia Department of Labor initially agreed and awarded her unemployment benefits, according to recent reports by CBS Atlanta News.

The Department of Labor has since reversed its decision and is requiring Chavez to pay back the $5,000 in benefits she had received. Chavez argues that the decision is discriminatory and biased based on her transgender status, claiming the state agency was also slow to acknowledge her name change as well.

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Lambda Legal fights to keep trans woman’s court victory over Ga. legislature

Lambda Legal has filed papers before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit defending a lower court’s ruling that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her job as a state legislative editor in 2007 after informing her superiors of her intention to transition from male to female.

In July of last year, the district court ruled that General Assembly officials discriminated against Glenn based on her sex. The General Assembly's legislative counsel, Sewell Brumby, fired Glenn because he thought her transition "was inappropriate, that it would be disruptive, that some people would view it as a moral issue, and that it would make Glenn's coworkers uncomfortable."

The state has since appealed the Vandy Beth Glenn wins lawsuit against Georgia General Assemblyruling.