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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBTQ Workers From Discrimination

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As Pride Month is celebrated across the country, there's a fitting victory in the civil rights battle for LGBTQ people.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday it is illegal for an employer to fire someone because they are gay or transgender.

"This was absolutely incredible today. This was a very big win for us," said Reg Calcagno of the LGBT Community Center in New York.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and fellow conservative John Roberts joined the four liberals, writing, "An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender, defies the law."

Calcagno said he didn't expect the 6-3 vote.

"I absolutely started to tear up reading the decision. Seeing that the Supreme Court ruled that companies do not have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on sexual orientation, based on gender identity or expression was absolutely monumental," he said.

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The court's ruling that LGBTQ people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is expected to have a big impact on the nation's 8.1 million LGBTQ workers, since most states don't protect them from workplace discrimination.

One of the three plaintiffs in the case was Donald Zarda, a Long Island skydiving instructor who was fired after telling a female student he was gay. Zarda died in 2014.

Gerald Bostock was another plaintiff. He was a social worker who was fired after he joined a gay softball league in Georgia.

"This decision insures that no one will have to go to work fearful of losing their job because of who they are, who they love, or how they identify," Bostock said.

Christine Quinn, who was the first openly gay New York City Council speaker, told CBS2's Dick Brennan the decision is one step in a continuing fight.

"The great thing to me is that the progress is continuing, and that we can be gratified and not satisfied at the same time and that is where we are at," Quinn said.

Brad Hoylman, New York's only openly gay state senator, said the win doesn't end the fight for equality.

"We're only looking at the employment context. There's so many other areas where LGBTQ people are being discriminated, and we'll look for more cases, but we also need better laws at the same time," he said.

The dissenting judges said the court has taken on the role of Congress by changing the law, and is wrong to think it is just enforcing the terms of the statute.

President Donald Trump's administration had fought against the law's expansion.

"We live with the decision of the Supreme Court. Very powerful. Very powerful decision, actually, but they have so ruled," Trump said.

"I think the only thing that the dissent got right was that Congress still has work to do. And that's to pass the Equality Act," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD. "That would be equivocal protections, explicit protections for the LGBTQ community."

LGBTQ advocates say the journey towards equality is still long, but hopeful.

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