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Melissa Zarda
Kansas City, MO

Melissa Zarda and her brother Don grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Don was gay, and when he lost his job as a skydiving instructor – simply because he disclosed his sexual orientation to a customer – Melissa was right there to support him. When Don challenged his firing in court, and after he tragically passed away in a base jumping accident, his sister teamed up with Don’s former partner and friend Bill to continue his fight. In 2018 Don’s story made national headlines when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Melissa spoke out vociferously that LGBTQ people should never have to suffer the same discrimination her brother had.

“When Donnie was challenged with something unfair, he would fight hard against it,” she said. “He would call and demand justice, even if it was something as stupid as making sure his cable bill was accurate. This case was so important to Don. Continuing it was the only way I could honor my brother. To right a wrong would have meant the world to him.”

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