Macon Magazine

April/May 2023

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Page 82 of 131

stated: "Ignoring Bostock doesn't make it go away." In granting Lange's claim, he added, "The exclusion plainly discriminates because of transgender status." Though this meant more time in court to come, Lange said she is heartened by the result of the ruling. "I felt vindicated because all along, I knew I was in the right. I knew that county officials had chosen not to cover this for a valid reason," she said. A jury of her peers agreed at Lange's civil trial, awarding her $60,000 in damages. Currently, Houston County and Sheriff Cullen Taton are appealing the ruling. Outside of her case, Lange said she feels like she is making a difference for other women and gender minorities to speak up in the workplace for their rights. "People say, 'If she can do it, I can do it.' There's safety in numbers. Being out and open certainly helps people say, you know, it's going to be okay." As news media around the country has grown around her case, she has been contacted by others who are struggling with gender identity, including parents trying to navigate a path for their children. WHAT PUBLIC COMMENT REVEALS ABOUT THIS CASE Houston County has chosen not to comment to the public or to the media about the ongoing litigation or choosing to maintain the exclusion on gender affirming care, including at last month's heated commission meeting where public comment boiled over a er the over $1 million dollar legal tab was revealed. The community encouraged the commissioners to reconsider, with more than five individuals defending Lange. "As a taxpayer, why must I contribute to the county to support the county in denying Sergeant Lange coverage for her surgery?" Santos argued. "There's no logical explanation I can find other than blatant discrimination." Reverend Amanda Schuber, a minister of High Street Unitarian Universalist Church in Macon, described herself as a fairly new Houston County resident and said her pronouns were "anything spoken in love." She remarked that Lange's case was "the misappropriation of over a million dollars and the refusal to support one of our brave officers." Schuber called gender affirming care "life-affirming care" continuing to say to the commission, "your opinions and feelings on the necessity of this care are not relevant." Schuber finished by asking the commission to "prioritize the worth of all individuals." Two individuals spoke in favor of the county maintaining the healthcare exclusion and said they felt their money was well spent. Resident Jacqueline Rozier said, "They make a choice, then they pay the cost," while Warner Robins resident Daryl Allen quoted the Bible and said that he felt women should not be ministers, a comment that elicited murmurs from the crowd. Another development in March was an amicus brief filed supporting Lange from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, authored by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, which stated, "The United States has a substantial interest in this appeal" and upholds the findings of the district court as correct. "I'M JUST GOING TO WORRY ABOUT THE JOB I CAN DO." While Lange described this experience as exhausting and stressful, she still encourages women and LGBTQ+ people to consider law enforcement as a career. "There's a ton of great female officers in Houston County and Warner Robins, Perry. Patrol, everywhere. There was a stigma when I first started that women weren't wanted … Nowadays, with the way law enforcement has evolved, that kind of stuff isn't tolerated anymore." She does notice how women tend to get dismissed more often when speaking in the workplace. "Speaking with a lot of my female coworkers, it is like, welcome to womanhood! Even though I've been doing this for 25 years and know the job really well," Lange explained. But she said she believes her work is worth it and that the field is opening doors for women and LGBTQ+ officers. She encourages other women and gender minorities to focus on their mission: "You have to say, 'I'm just going to worry about the job I can do.'" As the fight around the country continues around transgender rights, Lange seeks more dialogue and more patience. According to U.S. Census data, five percent of Georgia's workforce identifies as LGBTQ+, so this issue isn't going to disappear. "It's got to come with individuals who are willing to listen and understand what gender dysphoria really is," she said. "I deserve equal healthcare to what my coworkers receive." "THERE WAS A STIGMA WHEN I FIRST STARTED THAT WOMEN WEREN'T WANTED … NOWADAYS, WITH THE WAY LAW ENFORCEMENT HAS EVOLVED, THAT KIND OF STUFF ISN'T TOLERATED ANYMORE." — SERGEANT ANNA LANGE APRIL/MAY 2023 | 81

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