Today, the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the NYC Unity Project join lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities nationwide in celebrating an historic and long overdue victory. By declaring that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation are forms of illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed a core truth that we in New York City have recognized for decades.
With this landmark ruling, our country takes an extraordinary step forward in closing the gap in protections for millions of LGBTQ workers living in places where local anti-discrimination protections did not exist. The opinion also fundamentally calls into question new rules adopted days ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services erasing transgender people from the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provisions.
This victory is not without heartbreak as two of the courageous plaintiffs – Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens – are not here with us to be honored and celebrated. We owe them, the third plaintiff, Gerald Bostock, and their families a great debt of gratitude. For them, and for all LGBTQ communities, Congress must press forward and pass the Equality Act. The Equality Act would ensure protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination in public accommodations and in federally funded programs.
We celebrate this opinion as we remember Layleen Polanco and mourn the violent deaths of Dominique Fells, Riah Milton, Iyanna Dior, and Tony McDade—deaths that shed light on the epidemic of violence Black and Brown transgender people, particularly Black transgender women, face. Demonstrations nationwide continue to highlight abuses by law enforcement—the very same issues that queer and transgender people fought against over 50 years ago, launching today’s LGBTQ movement. Compelled by a shared commitment for dignity and justice for all, thousands gathered across the city in the past days to demand that “Black trans lives matter” be more than just a protest rallying call. We stand with them.
We must continue to be allies and advocates for those fighting anti-Black racism and police violence, knowing full well that these fights intersect with those for LGBTQ justice. As we honor the heroes of the LGBTQ movement during this Pride month and beyond, we remember that it was Black and Brown trans women, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera among them, who stood steadfast against police violence. We remember that Black and Brown LGBTQ New Yorkers and community members nationwide continue to lead the fight for justice today.
The path to full equality and justice is long and ongoing; the only way to victory is together. We commit to standing with our community members in the fights ahead and we celebrate with them today.