Visitors to The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta will receive an unexpected LGBTQ history lesson over the next few weeks with Lambda Legal’s “Queer Justice” touring exhibit in residence through February 16. The exhibition, launched in New York City in November 2023 and opened in Atlanta on January 5, provides a broad overview of the pivotal LGBTQ rights cases won by Lambda Legal over the last 50 years.
The two-day event kicked off with “Lambda Legal’s Past, Present, and Future,” a panel discussion moderated by Kevin Jennings, Chief Executive Officer of Lambda Legal, and panelists Judge Jane Morrison, Vandy Beth Glenn, Tim’m West, and Dani Alexander-Burk, followed by an exhibit unveiling.
Lambda Legal’s involvement in significant cases in Georgia is highlighted in the “Queer Justice” exhibit, specifically, the Vandy Beth Glenn case. Glenn, a transgender woman, was fired in 2007 from her job as a legislative editor in the office of the General Assembly after informing her then-supervisor of her intent to transition. Glenn and Lambda Legal sued in 2008, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, issued a landmark ruling in 2011 in favor of Glenn.
“Honestly, to be quite frank, more than all that we achieved together, I would have preferred just not to have gotten fired in the first place,” Glenn said in response to her historic challenge during the panel.
In this presidential election year, Jennings elevated the importance of viewing social issues through an intersectional lens.
“It is so important that we recognize the linkage between all of these issues right now,” Jennings said. “The same people who are coming for voting rights are the same people who are coming for reproductive rights are the same people who are coming for LGBTQ+ rights. We all need to stand together at this moment,” he said.
Judge Jane Morrison, one of the first out LGBTQ judges in Georgia, reflected on her long history of LGBTQ advocacy and the evolving landscape of queer Atlanta before being sworn in as an elected official.
“It was kind of like signing up to go to war on the front lines,” Morrison said. “You take your little law degree, and you parachute in. It was wild here. And it was exciting to meet new people, make the connections within the community, and know that what we were relying on was the power of advocacy,” she said. “To try to get people to change their minds and to get people to see things in a better light.”
“The version of the past we learn shapes the future we can envision,” Jennings said. “And this is why our opponents are so desperate to stop the teaching of the truth of America’s racial history, to stop LGBTQ+ issues from even being mentioned in schools. They want to erase us because if we’re not present in the past, young people will be unable to envision a different future.”
The reality of the present is that by day two of the “Queer Justice” event on January 6, 125 anti-trans bills were already introduced in state legislatures across the country, with at least six potential anti-trans bills in Georgia under close watch by Georgia Equality.
Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, moderated a panel discussion with Wendi Clifton (Managing Partner, Terminus Strategies) and GA State Sen. Kim Jackson (D-41) and led an advocacy training on the “State of the Movement in Georgia.” While Graham and the panelists acknowledged the fight ahead, Jackson reminded the audience to remain hopeful—channeling the stories of her young queer constituents.
“I cannot overstate how much it mattered to me that there were young queer people who showed up at the capital in all of their fabulous glory with their hair streaked in all of their gayness in a way that I couldn’t have imagined for myself at their age,” Jackson said. “And they talked and told their stories, as painful as they were. They also told joyful stories. They are living in communities where they can be who they are, and they want that for their other friends, “she said. “There is hope all around us, even in the belly of the well.”
Lambda Legal’s “Queer Justice Exhibit” will be available for viewing at The National Center for Civil and Human Rights through February 16 before traveling to Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.