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Gillian Branstetter, Spokesperson, National Women's Law Center, Discusses Supreme Court Decision Saying Workers Can't Be Fired For Being Gay, Transgender; Black Mom Pens Powerful Letter To Unborn Child; Trump's Unsteady Walk & Arm Lift Raise Health Questions. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 15, 2020 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And next, I'll be speaking to someone who filed a brief in a landmark Supreme Court decision. Six justices came to agreement that LGBTQ workers cannot be discriminated about at work.

Plus, the president's unsteady walking over the weekend is raising some questions about his health. We will discuss.



KEILAR: The Supreme Court, delivering a historic victory to the LGBTQ community today. In a 6-3 landmark ruling, the nation's highest court voted to protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from job discrimination. The Supreme Court says employers cannot fire workers for being gay or transgender.

Gillian Branstetter is spokeswoman for the National Women's Law Center. Her organization was involved in the case.

You guys filed a friend of the court brief in support of the lawsuit. And I wonder if you can just tell us your personal reaction to this and what new effects are going to be when it comes to workplace discrimination for gay, lesbian and transgender Americans.

GILLIAN BRANSTETTER, SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER: Today is such a historic victory across the country. It should be transgender people like myself. Fears of losing our jobs is one of the primary reasons transgender people site for staying in the closet, forcing us to live in fear and under a cloud of shame, just to show up to work every day.

I think this case -- when we woke up today, it was still legal in 28 states to fire an LGBTQ person because of who they are and who they love. And now it is illegal nationwide to subject somebody to that. It's really hard to overstate the importance of this case victory.

KEILAR: And, Gillian, we saw two of the courts' conservatives joining four of the liberals. This is a 6-3 decision. What do you make of that that you have the chief justice and Justice Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, joining the liberals?

BRANSTETTER: Well, that's pretty reflective of what we see in American society. The Equality Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress last year -- in the Houses, rather. It would end discrimination for LGBT people not just in unemployment but also in education, housing, and public spaces and a number of other areas. And it has broad base support across Americans of all parties.

That said, there are still many important cases on the Supreme Court dockets. So we look forward to decisions on reproductive health access to abortion access and to the fate of DREAMers.

KEILAR: When you're looking at a series of victories in recent years for the LGBTQ community, how do you fit this into that sort of -- the broader victories that you want to see even more of in the future?

BRANSTETTER: You can say the victory is critical but we have so much work left to do. Because we want every LGBT person in this country to live freely and safely.

Just yesterday, in front of the Brooklyn Museum, 15,000 showed up at a march the safety and dignity of black transgender lives. We know that black transgender women, in particular, are four times likely to become a murder victim as a non-transgender one. They are subject to harassment and profiling and abuse by police, by our nation's prison system.

And there's so much work left to do to secure every transgender person's safety. So, yes, today is a critical victory. But there's so much work left to do.

Just over the weekend, we found out that calls into Trans Lifeline, a crisis intervention line run for and by transgender people, had nearly doubled since the lockdowns began. Because of increased suicidality, especially among trans youth.

But all the homeless, people having few places to go and in need of help. A shelter in D.C. was threatened with a Pulse-like massacre on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando.

There's so much more work we need to do to ensure the safety of transgender people nationwide, even given this historic victory.

KEILAR: Gillian Branstetter, thank you.


KEILAR: Always great to see you.

And as protests are erupting across the country, one black mother wrote an emotional letter to her unborn child about the world he or she will face. And she's going to join me next to share that with us.


Plus, more voices calling for the president to cancel his rally in Tulsa out of fears over the virus as well as racial unrest.


KEILAR: An expectant mother with an emotional letter to her unborn child. This is called, quote, "A letter to my beautiful, black, unborn baby."

In it, this mom writes of her dreams for that baby while acknowledging the fear she has for the world that her child will grow up in.

I'm pleased to be joined by the author of this letter, Ebony Chisholm, and her husband, Henry.

And thank you to both of you for joining us and congratulations.



KEILAR: We were very moved, Ebony, by the letter and its message. And we just want people to hear it. So, would you read it for our viewers.

E. CHISHOLM: Sure. So I'm start.

"To my unborn son or daughter or however you choose to identify. I remember when my dad and I found out you would be the newest edition to our little family. It was the beginning of a global pandemic and we had hunkered down in our two-bedroom apartment for the long hall. There was so much uncertainty ahead of us but you brought us so much stability and happiness."

"As we continue to have an uncertainty, we kept our heads down, continue to work remotely and embrace all the things upon us because of you."


"Then our world was turned upside down in what seemed like days butted really the courses of a few short months. First, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and finally George Floyd. All black, all unarmed, all could have been you."

"While this isn't the first time we have watched innocent black men and women murdered and while it will not be the last, this time in earthed something I have never felt before, a mother's instinct of fear and rage."

"I'm in the beginning stages of my second trimester. This is when you're moving all your arms and legs. You have all of your fingers and toes. Your facial features are becoming more defined. And my stomach is starting to become more noticeable."

"Your dad and I should be thinking about who you will look like more, when we'll feel you kick for the first time, whether you're a boy or girl. But your gender doesn't matter, because the only thing we can talk about is how we can protect you."

"When will be the first time we have to have a conversation about what not to do when you go outside. Do not keep your hands in your pockets. Do not wear a hood. If you're stopped by the police with your hands on the steering wheel at all times."

"If you're ever detained, no matter what the reason, immediately ask for an attorney. Never let yourself be alone in a room with law enforcement if you can avoid it, and so on."

"While will so many people in this country see you as a threat, solely based on the color of your skin? It's too dangerous to not have your conversations because you or any black child could easily be another George, another Breonna, another Ahmaud, or any of the other hundreds of black men and women killed by law enforcement or white civilians."

"For those of us that want children, we are the kind of parent we hope to be. I always want to be honest and open about my feelings. So, let's start here. I'm scared. I'm terrified for you already and you're not even here yet."

"I want to shelter you away from the harsh realities of the world you're in. I want to protect you from the hate and evil that spews from the mouths of those and a dictator that wants violence daily against me, your father, and now you. And yet, I know I won't be able to do that forever."

"While the fire is still burning inside of me, it's also met with feelings of excitement and joy. Despite the feeling of terror, I chose to tell you every day that you're worthy and wonderful."

"I'm overcome with gratitude as I watch my body change because that means you're growing and we're one day closer to meeting you."

"I know I won't be able to keep you under my wing forever. But what I can and will do for your entire life is tell you you're black, beautiful, strong, you are powerful. No matter what, I want you to be proud of who you are."

"Know your skin will radiate to those around you and you can do anything. If you ever forget that or anyone makes you feel anything less than, your mom and dad will be there to remind you your life matters and all Black Lives Matter. Our backs will be holding you up forever."

"Love always, your mom."

KEILAR: Ebony, Henry, it is a beautiful letter.

And you know, I think -- I think through so many of these conversations we've been having recent lee, thinking of children in all of this is something that really cuts through to a lot of people to understand, you know, that all of these folks we're talking about are somebody's baby, right?

So, I wonder when you penned this beautiful letter, what are you hoping that people take away from it?

E. CHISHOLM: You know, I think what I wrote, I was coming from a place -- like I said in the letter, it's not the first time and not going to be the last time we see these murders happen. And I was coming from a place of anger and frustration because this keeps happening. And before I think George Floyd, it seems like it was just another body.

So, I was hoping that it might give somebody, who may not understand or choose to not understand, because it doesn't affect them, a different perspective.

KEILAR: Yes. Because, you know, everyone who has a baby is thinking about the future of that baby, even before it is born, right?

And, Henry, you encouraged Ebony to write this letter. Tell us why you thought it was important to share this

H. CHISHOLM: I mean, like you said, it is just important. And, you know, when George Floyd was on floor, he called out for his mom. And I heard somebody say in an interview that when he said, momma, he was talking to all of us, talking to all of the mothers.


And these are conversations that Ebony and I had for years. We met in 2013 and started dating in 2013 and talking about Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Philando Castile.

Talking about, when we have kids, how are we going to have this conversation. I've been in situations when I've been pulled over for no reason and followed me around the neighborhood. So it is things that we've experienced as we've been a couple together.

So when she told me that she had the idea to do it, I was like you have to because your voice right now is powerful and they matter and it means something. So we can't hold back.

I think everything that you're seeing right now that is playing out in the streets is that we're fed up and tired. And anger comes from pain and hurt feelings. And we're hurt and we need change and we need answers.

So for anybody, any mother, any father that has seen this and watched it and think, damn, my kids has to go somewhere and now you're not thinking I hope they don't get into an accident or thinking I hope someone doesn't -- a cop doesn't pull them over or do something crazy to them or anything else.

I was just like, yes, this needs to be said. It needs to be said. People need to hear it.

KEILAR: It is a beautiful letter. You don't need me to tell you how many people you are reached. It's reached so many people.

And, Ebony and Henry, thank you for joining us. Congratulations here in the coming months as you are looking forward to welcoming your baby.

E. CHISHOLM: Thank you so much.

H. CHISHOLM: Thank you very much. And thank you for having us on.

KEILAR: Next, President Trump firing back after his unsteady walk at a West Point speech fueled speculation about his health.

Plus we're live in Atlanta where the family of Rayshard Brooks made a tearful plea for justice today. We have details on the investigation into his death at the hands of police.



KEILAR: Just in, the Oscars have been delayed until April of next year due to the coronavirus. The annual event honoring the year's best in film was planned for the end of February. And this is the first time that the event has been rescheduled in 40 years.

President Trump is facing some new questions when his health after an unsteady walk down a ramp after his commencement speech at West Point this weekend.

The president responded to Internet speculation about the incident. He tweeted that the ramp was long and steep and slippery and said that he did not want to fall and give the media anything else to, quote, "have fun with."

But then there's another moment from that same West Point speech where the president appeared to be having some trouble drinking -- bringing a glass of water to his mouth during a speech.

I want to discuss this now with CNN's Political Reporter and Editor- at-Large, Chris Cillizza.

You have a dotcom piece on and you lay out why this should matter. Tell us why.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: A couple of obvious things, Brianna. Number one, Donald Trump is 74 years old. His birthday was on Sunday. He's the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president.

Two, we know so little about Donald Trump's past medical history. Remember, this is someone who the entirety of his medical history was a 2015 letter by his personal doctor saying that he would be the most physically fit person ever to be president. A letter, I'll note, that the doctor since said was dictated to him by Donald Trump. So we just have very little to go on.

And when you have those two things and you add it to the fact, that Donald Trump, whether it is Joe Biden on Hillary Clinton, makes the mental and physical health of his Democratic opponent an issue -- he did it today, said that Joe Biden was shocked and weak - that's what I think, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

KEILAR: It is one of his go-to things that he does, where he did this in 2016. He's doing it again with Joe Biden.

I wonder if you think, Chris, if the president -- why did he respond to this on Twitter? One could argument that he kind of made this into a big deal and now you have more people who are actually looking at the videos.

CILLIZZA: If one argued that, one would be right, Brianna.

Look, that video was going to get some attention. And I looked this morning and the main video had about 12 million views. So people would have seen it. But it is largely a Twitter story at that point.

When the president of the United States goes to respond to something like that, now all of a sudden, every major newspaper, my former employer, "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," CNN, we're all going to cover it because the president has issued a statement on it.

So why does he do it? Because he can't help himself. Because the most important thing for Donald Trump is to always look strong, competent, and in control.

Any time there's a storyline that suggests he's not, he has to respond even though it is quite clearly, especially in this case, not the right strategic political move for him.

KEILAR: It is like a reflex that we see time and again.

Chris Cillizza, thank you --


CILLIZZA: That's right. Pavlovian.

KEILAR: Thank you for -- yes, exactly. Thanks for joining us.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: And our special coverage will continue now with Brooke Baldwin.