Lambda Legal hires Emory administrator to lead Atlanta office

LGBTQ Atlanta’s own Michael Shutt has been chosen to lead the Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal — the country’s most prominent LGBTQ legal group.

Shutt (photo) took over the position on Wednesday. He succeeds Simone Bell, the former state lawmaker who led the Southern Regional Office since 2015. She left the group earlier this year.

Shutt said he was “deeply honored and excited” to take on the role, according to a Lambda press release.

“I’ve had a deep love and appreciation for Lambda Legal for so long,” he told Project Q Atlanta on Friday.

Shutt is the former senior director for campus life at Emory University and former adjunct assistant professor at the University of Georgia. He was also the founding director of the University of Georgia’s LGBT Resource Center and later led Emory’s Office of LGBT Life.

Shutt said his work in higher education often included the type of political work that the Lambda position involves.

“As the founding director of the LGBT Center at the University of Georgia, we were dealing with issues of the law, we were dealing with the state legislature,” he said. “It’s a fairly politicized position.”

Shutt is also chair of the board of directors of the Equality Foundation of Georgia and an advisory board member for the LGBTQ Institute. That work also helped prepare him for his new role, he said.

“This was an opportunity to leap into it full force,” he said. “It will both challenge me and allow me to bring both my own knowledge and history to the table, and I think Lambda Legal will be able to use that really well.”

Lambda is “thrilled” to bring Shutt on, according to the group’s Interim CEO Richard Burns.

“The LGBTQ community in the South faces particular challenges, particularly transgender people and people of color,” Burns said in a press release. “Michael brings to that struggle a wealth of knowledge and an extensive track record of leadership and accomplishment. With that experience, Michael will help Lambda Legal strengthen its response to those attacks, and enable us both to defend the gains we have made and expand civil rights for LGBTQ people throughout the South.”

As southern regional director, Shutt will oversee Lambda's programming and outreach efforts in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Lambda has sued the state to overturn its gay marriage ban and sued the City of Atlanta after police raided the Eagle in 2009. The group also helped two trans men in Augusta get their names changed after a judge refused to. It represented an Atlanta woman who was harassed and then fired from her job for being a lesbian. And it’s currently representing a gay Atlanta couple who are fighting to get the U.S. State Department to recognize their infant daughter’s citizenship.

Photo courtesy Michael Shutt