Local advocates applaud landmark Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights

The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. Prior to Monday’s ruling, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ruling is a major victory for LGBTQ advocates across the country, and represents “a transformative step in creating equality for all people,” said Lisa Shelby, executive director of HiTOPS. Shelby said it is essential that LGBTQ youth are free to pursue their talents and interests in a career, because work can be a key component in a person’s identity and place in society.

“This is an enormous building block for a better future,” said Sue Henderson, co-chair for the central New Jersey GLSEN chapter.

In New Jersey, protections against workplace discrimination have existed since 1945, when the state passed the NJ Law Against Discrimination (LAD). As of 2018, it is also illegal in New Jersey for an employer to pay an employee of an LAD-protected class less than an employee who is not an LAD-protected class.

But there is still work to be done, both at the state and national levels, said Michele Mazakas, president of the PFLAG Princeton planning board. Mazakas hopes the ruling will encourage states to implement more policies to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

“We have to celebrate, and then we have to get back to work,” Henderson said.

Some next steps include educating workplaces about worker protections and monitoring them to make sure these rules are followed, she added.

Mazakas said there are many other areas of LGBTQ rights that need improvement as well, including housing, healthcare, and supporting Black people in the LGBTQ community in particular.