[There was a video here]
The Department of Justice is filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as a result of the state’s “bathroom bill” known as HB2 (or the Public Facilities Act), announced Attorney General Loretta Lynch at news conference this afternoon.
“We are seeking a court order declaring HB2's restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement,” said Lynch. “Now while the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as the case proceeds.”
“The legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity,” said of HB2. “More to the point, they created state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security, a right taken for granted by most of us.”
Lynch’s passionate speech contextualized HB2 within the history of backlash against civil rights advancements in the United States. She said, in part:
This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them. Indeed, to protect all of us. And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country haltingly but inexorably in the direction of fairness, inclusion, and equality for all Americans.
This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in the fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation in state bans on same-sex unions that were intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry. And that right of course is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution. And in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill and state after state taking aim at the LGBT community.
Now some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, of diversity, of compassion and open-mindedness. And what we must not do—what we must never do—is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans for something that they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. And this is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something or someone that they are not, or invents a problem that does not exist as a pretext for discrimination or harassment.
“This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does is harm innocent Americans,” said Lynch in a speech that dismantled all of the fear-mongering, compassionless nonsense that accompanied the passage of HB2. How refreshing it is to hear a public servant so eloquently slice and dice bigotry into confetti.