It came as a surprise for many Americans as the Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 in favour of gay and transgender rights in the workplace. 

The Court’s decision bars workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees who previously could legally be fired if their bosses objected to their gender identities or sex lives. 

This ruling presents as one of the biggest moments for LGBTQ rights since the legalisation of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015 during the Obama administration. 

In many ways, the decision is the strongest evidence yet of how rapidly and, to some degree, unpredictably American views about gay and transgender people have changed across the ideological spectrum in recent years. It is all the more striking after the Trump administration moved last week to erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies. 

The 6-3 decision was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first high court appointee and an unyielding conservative on most disputes. 

Gorsuch said the “message” of the law is “simple and momentous. An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” 

More than 7 million people in the US identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. Of those, about 4 million currently live in states where laws do not protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Trump, when asked about the court ruling on Monday, responded, “They’ve ruled, I’ve read the decision and some people were surprised. But they’ve ruled and we live with their decision.” 

He called it “a very powerful decision, actually.” 

The new ruling comes in when 51 years ago, this month, the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan helped usher in the modern gay rights movement. 

Stonewall Riots 

Very few establishments welcomed gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars. One of which was Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. In 1969, patrons of the bar, popular among the poorest and most marginalised people in the gay community, rebelled against constant police raids. Other Village lesbian and gay bar patrons and neighbourhood street people also fought back when the police became violent during the raid. 

Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents organised into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gay men and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested. 

The riots are widely considered to constitute one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.  


Today, LGBTQ Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. WorldPride NYC 2019 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with city officials estimating 5 million attendees in Manhattan, and on June 6, 2019, New York City Police Commissioner rendered a formal apology on behalf of the New York Police Department for the actions of its officers at Stonewall in 1969. 

Though the celebration for equal rights takes place every year, given the current pandemic situation, most Pride parades and gathers have been cancelled for 2020.  

Zahra Khozema