In case you missed it, a major civil rights battle heated up yesterday.
Earlier last week, the Justice Department issued a statement that North Carolina’s HB2 – the so called “bathroom law” the requires people to use the bathroom that is the same gender that is on their birth certification – violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the section that prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion. The consequences of the Justice Department’s decision potentially includes the loss of hundreds of millions in federal funding to the state. The decision also called for North Carolina to stop the implementation of the law with the deadline being the end of the day Monday.
Instead, the governor and the state chose another course: the state of North Carolina filed a lawsuit calling the Justice Department’s position a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act” thereby defending HB2.
Needless to say, the Justice Department didn’t take that lightly. The DOJ filed a civil rights lawsuit over HB2, saying that in addition to violating the Civil Rights Act, HB2 also violates Title IX, the Education Acts Amendment of 1972 that bans gender discrimination in education as well as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that outlaws discrimination based on sex.
The DOJ was able to include Title IX violations in their suit because HB2 also covers a major player in North Carolina – the state’s public university system. The University of North Carolina on Monday told the Justice Department that it intends to act “in compliance with federal law” defying the governor and the legislature. North Carolina’s Attorney General also stated he would not defend the state in this matter.
But with the announcement yesterday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch – a North Carolina native – made the biggest headlines, casting the bathroom bill issue as the latest civil rights struggle of the era and stating that HB2 created state-sponsored discrimination. But her words below were particularly poignant.
Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy — but we’ll get there together.