A Half-Century On, an Unexpected Milestone for L.G.B.T.Q. Rights

Mr. Englert said the influence of these groups should not be taken lightly. “Trust me, there are many conservative churches and conservative organizations throughout the South and in the middle of the country that will deplore today’s decision,” he said. “And these are people with some followers.”

Annise Parker, a former mayor of Houston who now leads the Victory Fund, which helps elect L.G.B.T. candidates, said that despite the progress of the last 10 years, she did not see a point “when any of us will ever be able to say, ‘We’re done.’” As mayor, Ms. Parker signed into a law a nondiscrimination ordinance that covered sexual orientation and gender identity, only to see it overturned by voters in a referendum.

“So a city that elected me to office nine times said that they didn’t want me to have full rights,” said Ms. Parker, who added that as someone involved in the L.G.B.T. movement since the 1970s, she took the long view. “There is still work to do.”

It is still perfectly legal in many states to refuse service to someone who is gay or transgender, to deny them a home to rent or to decline to provide them with health care. But the scope and significance of Tuesday’s decision were undeniable, activists said.

David Mixner, a longtime gay rights leader who was a close adviser to President Bill Clinton, said that when he heard about Monday’s decision, he thought immediately back to when the first gay employment discrimination bill was introduced in Congress in 1974 by, among others, Representative Bella Abzug of New York.

“They had seven co-sponsors,” he said. “For four decades plus, we have been fighting hard to get what turns out to be the most difficult one, employment protection. It’s the most important one. For years I’ve said we have 30-some states where it’s still legal to fire a person for being L.G.B.T.Q. Now I can’t say that anymore.”

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