— After working for more than a decade as an advocate for at-risk children in Clayton County, Georgia, outside Atlanta, Gerald Bostock was fired when he joined a gay softball league.

On Tuesday, in one of the most important cases of its new term, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"I was fired for being gay. I lost everything. I lost my livelihood. I lost my source of income, I lost my medical insurance," Bostock said. "I was devastated."

A provision of federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of, among other factors, a person's sex. But the lower federal courts are divided on whether that language also covers sexual orientation.

Brian Sutherland, an Atlanta lawyer representing Bostock, said it does. "One simply cannot consider an individual's sexual orientation without first considering his sex. A gay man is only a gay man if he's attracted to other men." It cannot be the law "that a gay man or lesbian woman can be married to their partner on Sunday and legally fired for it on Monday," Sutherland argued.

In response, the state of Georgia says Congress never intended to include sexual orientation when passing the law more than half a century ago. More than 50 efforts have failed since then to change the law and make that coverage explicit. The U.S. Justice Department agrees with the state, in a reversal from the position it took during the Obama administration.

"The ordinary meaning of 'sex' is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation," the government said in its written brief. "An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships."

The case comes to the Supreme Court that no longer includes Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote all of the court's significant gay rights decisions. He was succeeded by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has no record of ruling on the issue but who is generally more conservative than Kennedy.

A companion case involves a New York skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who was fired after he told a female client, who wondered about being strapped so tightly to him during a jump, not to worry because he is "100 percent gay."

The court will also consider whether Title VII outlaws discrimination against transgender employees. A federal appeals court ruled that Aimee Stephens was impermissibly fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home two weeks after she told her boss she is transgender. The company said she failed to follow the dress code.

"The funeral home would have treated a woman who wanted to dress and present as a man, with grieving family members and clients of the funeral home, exactly the same way that Stephens was treated," said John Bursch of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group representing her former employer.

But the American Civil Liberties Union said even if the meaning of Title VII is confined to biological sex, it still makes her firing illegal. If she had been "assigned a female rather than a male sex at birth," she would not have been fired for living openly as a woman.

The funeral home also fired her for failing to conform to its views of how men and women should dress and act, the group said, contrary to long-standing court rulings that forbid firing employees because of sex-based stereotypes.

Across the nation, 21 states have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Seven more provide that protection only to public employees. Those laws would remain in force if the Supreme Court rules that Title VII does not apply in LGBTQ cases. But if the court rules that it does, then the protection would apply nationwide.

Channing Smith a 16-year-old junior at Coffee County Central High School in Manchester, Tennessee — killed himself after explicit chat messages between him and another boy were reposted by a classmate on Instagram and Snapchat, outing Smith as being sexually attracted to other boys, Buzzfeed News reports.

Smith’s parents have since called for an investigation into the social media posting and its role in Smith’s suicide.

The explicit chats were reportedly posted a by a female classmate who was angered at the text exchange with the other boy. A friend of Smith’s says she vindictively posted the messages online.

When Smith discovered the messages online, he frantically began calling friends at 10 p.m. Sunday night, wondering what to do. He then posted the following message on Instagram: “I’m gonna get off social media for a while. I really hate how I can’t trust anyone because those I did were so fake. BYE.”

His father discovered his body in his bedroom at 4 a.m. Monday morning.

Hailey Meister, the 17-year-old girl Smith had been dating for a month before his suicide, said, “He didn’t deserve that. He was kind and loving and a very good person… It made him feel and it was a mistake…. He was trying to find himself and people called him bisexual but he never classified specifically as that.” She adds that his explicit texts were months old.

Classmates say that months before his suicide, Smith was bullied with people “calling him names and saying that ‘no one liked him’ because he sometimes ‘talked in a girly voice and walked with sass,'” writes Buzzfeed News.

Smith’s older brother, 38-year-old Joshua Smith, says they grew up in a small, conservative southern town with an “ultra-conservative” father who would’ve had a hard time accepting his son’s sexuality. Joshua thinks being outed in an environment like that would be devastating for a young person.

Joshua says that he and his father feel like police have been dragging their feet on an investigation, not confiscating the phones of the involved teens. The county’s District Attorney Craig Northcott has previously that he doesn’t prosecute domestic violence cases involving same-sex couples because they don’t deserve civil protections. Northcott has since said that police are investigating and he can’t comment on it.

Joshua adds that the school hasn’t posted any messages recognizing his brother’s suicide, held any assemblies to denounce bullying or offered counseling to students affected by his death. Dozens of classmates held a “strike” at a recent homecoming rally with signs demanding “Justice for Channing.”

According to Buzzfeed News, “Channing, who would have turned 17 on Oct. 20, was smart, funny, a little goofy, and wanted to be an engineer. He rarely talked about his own feelings, but always made sure other people were OK, his friends said. He also loved riding his motorcycle, talking about cars he had worked on as a kid, and playing his guitar.”

Jacksonville police made an arrest in what they termed a “horrendous” incident Friday that saw a victim beaten, tied and dragged behind a minivan.

Eric Shaun Bridges, 34, was arrested Sunday evening on a charge of attempted murder, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Officers were called to Pearce Street near West 36th Street where a woman was found lying on the street suffering from life-threatening injuries. The Sheriff’s Office said the victim was a man, but LGBT activists report the victim was a transgender woman.

“The victim had been severely beaten and was dragged from a suspect’s minivan by his legs for about two blocks behind a Dodge Caravan with a male driver, Assistant Chief Brien Kee said Friday. Some of the attack was caught on a camera that is part of the Sheriff’s Office’s Real Time Crime Center.

“The video was so graphic we can’t release it. It’s horrendous,” Kee said.

Investigators found the minivan over the weekend and learned it had been reported stolen prior to the incident. Homicide detectives spoke to people in the area, tracked leads and analyzed evidence in and around the crime scene as well as in the vehicle, and tracked down Bridges midday Sunday, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Bridges has eight prior arrests in Jacksonville, mostly for grand theft, according to jail records.

Transgender Awareness Project leader Paige Mahogany Parks posted “Yes JSO keep them coming” on Facebook regarding the Sunday’s arrest.

Last week the Sheriff’s Office also announced an arrest involving another transgender victim. Sean Bernard Phoenix, 21, was charged in the Feb. 4, 2018, shooting death of 36-year-old Celine Walker at the Skinner Lake Drive Extended Stay America. The two had a previous relationship.

Emmy-winning actress and producer Laverne Cox is bursting with confidence today—but she struggled to believe in herself for years, until she found a sense of purpose through acting.

Cox, who is best known for her role on “Orange is the New Black,” became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Prime time Emmy acting award in 2014.

“I often get asked, how do I build confidence, how do I believe in myself?” Cox said in an interview with Know Your Value millennial contributor Daniela Pierre-Bravo. “And for many years, I did not believe in myself. I didn’t think that it was possible.”

But Cox’s longtime “passion” for the craft of acting and “the power of storytelling to change lives” inspired her to keep going. “The passion is what kept me training, going to auditions. So if you love something, you find a way to do it.”

Cox made the comments at Global Citizen Festival, an annual event featuring musicians and activists encouraging people to act to end extreme poverty by 2030. More than 60,000 people swarmed New York City’s Central Park to attend the 2019 event, and the group’s mission is to build a community of 100 million engaged citizens who tackle poverty-linked issues including the plight of girls and women around the globe, food and hunger, water and sanitation, health, education and more.

Pierre-Bravo asked Cox to share “tips you have for young women who want to have that passion and act on it, but still feel they’re being held back.”

“When I’m in my purpose, then even if I might not have the confidence, then I can allow the energy of a higher power, a greater energy, to enter me and work through me,” Cox said. “When we are of service, the universe takes care of all of it.”

Pierre-Bravo also asked Cox about National Coming Out Day on October 11, noting “so many people are still in the shadows, repressing who they are.”

“The fear—it’s often in our heads,” Cox said. “There’s always another layer of something I have to embrace abut myself. Most recently it’s been my age.”

She relayed a story about breaking her foot earlier this year and how she had to give her ID to her boyfriend to pick up medication for her. She asked him not to look at the age; he did look, though, and said Cox was as old as he figured she was.

“It was like, the anxiety was mine. No one else cared,” Cox said. “Sometimes people will care but really the shame we internalize about things is our own.”

Letting go of that shame and fear is key to living a full life, she added.

“How freeing is it to just be in the truth of who you are?” Cox said. “Most of us get to a point where we can no longer lie to ourselves about ourselves. And it is just the ultimate freedom to be able to say this is who I am…you can step into the reason you’re on this planet.”

Global Citizen hopes to inspire people to make activism part of their “reason.” The group says millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken 14 million actions—like writing emails, creating petitions and calling world leaders—to solve these challenges, helping to impact more than 650 million people’s lives.

The annual festival is ticketed but free, inspiring people to take action through Global Citizen’s platform to earn tickets. This year’s musical lineup included Queen, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, H.E.R., Carole King and other special guests, and MSNBC and Comcast were two of the festival’s media partners.

Even bigger plans are slated for next year, when Global Citizen will launch its biggest-ever campaign through “Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream,” a 10-hour concert to be held in September 2020 on five continents. Twin festivals will be broadcast live from New York City and Lagos, Nigeria, with satellite events held in as-yet-unannounced cities in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

The 2020 campaign, which marks the final decade before Global Citizen’s 2030 goal, will aim to secure an additional $350 billion in global commitments annually. According to the group, experts say that is the figure needed to provide citizens in 59 of the poorest nations with the basic necessities to live healthy and dignified lives.

A 19-month-old investigation into the shooting death of the first of three transgender victims last year in Jacksonville ended with the arrest of a 21-year-old man, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Sean Bernard Phoenix of Acorn Park Court was arrested Aug. 29 on a warrant for murder. He also faces charges of tampering with evidence and shooting deadly missiles as he remains behind bar without bail, according to Duval County jail records. Police did not release details of his arrest or connection to the case until Wednesday.

He is charged in the homicide of 36-year-old Celine Walker, who was shot multiple times and killed Feb. 4 in a room at the Extended Stay America motel on Skinner Lake Drive, Chief T. K. Waters said.

The shooting occurred during an argument. Waters said the two “had a previous relationship,” but he did not release the details.

“Additional evidence placed the suspect at the scene during the shooting,” Water said. ”... The arrest in this case brings closure to the victim’s family, who has been very helpful and supportive in our investigative efforts.”

JASMYN Director of Policy Dan Merkan said he only learned of the arrest Wednesday afternoon and shared it with staff.

The nonprofit agency promotes equality and human rights for young members of the LGBT community. It has worked with the Sheriff’s Office in the past year on a new liaison team that works with LGBT crime victims following complaints to City Council after last year’s three transgender homicides.

“It was a pretty traumatic time and a lot of people were concerned about the level of violence directed at the transgender community,” Merkan said. “Great credit to JSO for getting this arrest. It sounds like from the report that the suspect confessed, so that is a great step forward. I know there is still work to be done on the others, but it is a real relief to know what happened in this case.”

Several shell casings were recovered at Walker’s motel room, as well as DNA evidence, Waters said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement studied the DNA and identified it as coming from Phoenix, Waters said.

“That DNA was on the victim’s body inside the hotel room,” Waters said. ”... The suspect also admitted to selling the murder weapon to an unknown individual after the victim was killed in an effort to dispose of the evidence.”

Walker’s death was the first of three transgender homicides that occurred over a five-month period in the city.

The second occurred about 3:45 a.m. June 1, when 38-year-old local performer Antash’a Devine Sherrington English was shot between two abandoned homes in the 1500 block of Ella Street. She told officers the shooter was a man in a gray hoodie, then died at a hospital, police said.

The last transgender homicide of 2018 was June 24 outside the Quality Inn and Suites on Dix Ellis Trail. Identified as Cathalina Christina James, 24, of Bishopville, S.C., the Sheriff’s Office said witnesses told investigators the victim was “participating in illegal activity.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the three homicides made up 23 percent of the nation’s 13 transgender victims as of June 2018.

The three deaths as well as the June 12, 2018, shooting of a 23-year-old transgender woman in the 1000 block of West 29th Street also left the city’s transgender community worried.

Community members organized a protest in late June 2018 in front of the courthouse after speaking out to the City Council.

The protest prompted Sheriff Mike Williams and others to have a town meeting Aug. 2, 2018, to hear their concerns. He acknowledged faults in his department’s reporting. He said sensitivity training was being instituted in the police academy when it comes to dealing with those in the LGBT community, and he set up a liaison team to work with victims.

That team now has 20 members from all departments, Assistant Chief Adam Pendley saying recently that the past year’s work has gone well, another part of the community “we needed to reach out to.”

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