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How a Louisville anti-discrimination ordinance was created because of a t-shirt

When a photographer took a photo of Alicia Pedreira and her then girlfriend at the 1998 Kentucky State Fair, she had no idea the repercussions that would follow.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An ordinance protecting LGBTQ+ workers in Louisville was created because of a photograph of two women and the t-shirt one of them was wearing.

Alicia Pedreira was thrust into the spotlight after thousands of people saw a photo of her with her then-girlfriend wearing a shirt that said "Isle of Lesbos" at the Kentucky State Fair in 1998.

“This was at a walk for AIDS and it was at the Belvedere," Pedreira said. "I remember a photographer came by, and I'm kind of a ham, and so we just smiled at the camera and he took his picture, went on his way, and that was it.”

But when the photo was taken, she had no idea the repercussions that would follow.

Credit: Alyssa Newton, WHAS11 News

Pedreira had been working at the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children for six months. She says she had told her employers she was gay prior to being hired.

"When I thought it was serious that they were going to actually perhaps hire me, that's when I told them on the second interview that I was gay, and that if that was a problem, not to hire me," she said.

But the company hired her regardless, and Pedreira fell in love with the job. Once the photo was released, however, she was quickly fired from her role. 

Pedreira then filed a lawsuit against the company, which pushed her into the forefront of a movement she wasn't expecting.

“If I was gonna get in this, I was in this for the fight," she said. "Because I knew it wasn't just my fight. It was a fight for lots of people.”

Out of Pedreira's lawsuit came the Louisville Fairness Ordinance which went into effect, after three failed attempts, on Jan. 26, 1999.

The ordinance gave legal protections that wouldn't allow for discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity whether it be regarding the workplace, housing or public accommodations.

Credit: Alyssa Newton, WHAS11 News

"I think it was a cultural shift for the queer community, because we live in fear that if someone were to find out, then they could throw you out of your home," Pedreira said. 

20 years later, Pedreira finally got some type of closure in the court system.

"I didn't get a settlement, because that usually sounds like I got money," she said. "As a matter of fact, I signed with the ACLU not to settle because those attorneys all wanted to change law. They wanted it for everyone.”

Despite all of the heartache, setbacks and years in litigation, Pedreira says it was all worth it. 

"If it isn't my fight, then it'll be somebody else's,” she said.

►Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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