A U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is monumental — but only the first step in providing equality, says a Virginia Tech expert.

“After more than 40 years of failed efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress, it is finally illegal in all 50 states to fire someone solely for being LGBTQ,” said Laura Belmonte, a Virginia Tech historian who is an expert on the international LGBTQ rights movement.

The June 15 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court amends Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and extends job protections nationwide. Belmonte noted that variations on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act have been introduced into Congress nearly every year since the mid-1970s.

“There is still much to do to achieve full equality,” Belmonte said. “Transgender women of color face horrific levels of violence. LGBTQ youth have disproportionately high levels of suicide and homelessness. And it remains illegal to be LGBTQ in nearly 70 nations.” 

Yet, Belmonte added, “Today’s ruling makes this Pride Month an especially celebratory one.”

About Laura Belmonte: Laura Belmonte, a specialist in the history of U.S. foreign relations, serves as dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, where she is also a history professor. 

Belmonte is the author or editor of several books, including “The International LGBT Rights Movement: A History,” forthcoming from Bloomsbury Publishing. 

From 2009 to 2019, Belmonte served on the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee for Historical Diplomatic Documentation, a group that participates in ongoing debates over transparency and declassification and the intersections between historical events and contemporary diplomacy. She has also served on the national council of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the editorial board of its official journal, Diplomatic History.

In March, Belmonte testified before the U.S. House Committee on Rules during a hearing on the encroachment of the executive branch on the powers of the legislative branch.