NEW YORK (Reuters) – A diverse crowd of New Yorkers wearing masks and waving the rainbow pride flag gathered on Monday at the Stonewall Inn, an iconic gay bar in Manhattan, to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling making it illegal for employers to fire workers because they are transgender.
“Our Supreme Court did something!” said Marti Cummings, a prominent nonbinary New York drag queen. “It was a 6-3 ruling that said we are allowed to have jobs. That we are allowed to go to work and be ourselves, that we can show up at work and say that I am a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, genderqueer, two spirit person.”
The landmark 6-3 ruling represented the biggest advancement for LGBT rights in the United States since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
Workplace bias against gay and transgender employees had remained legal in much of the country, with 28 U.S. states lacking comprehensive measures against employment discrimination. The ruling – in two gay rights cases from Georgia and New York and a transgender rights case from Michigan – recognizes new worker protections in federal law.
Speakers at the Stonewall Inn talked about the nature of labor in the transgender community, and advocated for protections for sex work. It is arguably the most famous gay bar in the world, where a 1969 police raid and subsequent protests launched the modern gay rights movement.
TS Candii, the founder of Black Trans News LLC, a news organization she said was recently created by transgender youth who are sex workers, led the crowd in chanting, “Sex work is work!”
Miss Peppermint, a black transgender drag queen and activist, said she was present for oral arguments at the Supreme Court case. “The ruling was highly emotional,” she said. “It meant one step towards true equality.”
“I don’t know that there’s ever been a black trans woman in the Supreme Court, period. But there hasn’t been a case that has argued transgender rights so clearly in history. So it was a historic moment to behold.”
The protests and growing social movement in support of civil rights for Black Americans also loomed large over the rally. Speakers noted that the struggle for transgender rights had connections to other movements for social, racial, and economic justice currently roiling the city and the nation.
Several speakers referred to the murders of two transgender women of color in the United States in the last week alone.
“I don’t think it’s possible to really dismantle homophobia without dismantling sexism and misogyny, and I don’t think it’s possible to really dismantle racism without dismantling homophobia,” Miss Peppermint said. “I think that all of these things are connected. The intersection I was born at really does connect with all of those things in a very clear way.”
(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer; editing by Bill Tarrant and Raju Gopalakrishnan)