June 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Lynch reflects on LGBT progress at DOJ Pride event
Loretta Lynch, gay news, Washington Blade, Department of Justice Pride

Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at the Department of Justice Pride event on June 7, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch reflected on progress made by the LGBT community under the Obama administration Tuesday in a celebration at the U.S. Justice Department observing June as Pride month.

Lynch made the remarks in the Great Hall before LGBT attorneys and law enforcement officials at an event coordinated by DOJ Pride, the LGBT affinity group for Justice Department employees.

“Over the course of these last eight years, we have made once-unimaginable progress on issues that have challenged our nation for decades and that have been deeply felt for centuries by individual Americans who often suffered in silence,” Lynch said. “In ways large and small – through the policies of this administration, through the undertakings of this department and through the actions of all of you here in this room today and across the country – we have bent the arc of the moral universe a little further toward justice.”

Lynch enumerated advancements on LGBT rights under the Obama administration, such as enactment of hate crimes legislation, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and U.S. Supreme Court rulings against the Defense of Marriage Act and in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.

The attorney general contributed to that list herself last month by filing a lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, which prohibits cities from enacting pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances and bars transgender people from using the restroom in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.

Referencing the lawsuit against House Bill 2, Lynch said, “In just the last few weeks, we have stood side-by-side with the transgender community to demand respect, to insist on dignity and to ensure that transgender individuals are able to live the lives they were born to lead.”

“So here, in this place and at this time, let us celebrate these achievements and express our own pride,” Lynch said. “Pride in this country for drawing closer to the promise of equality and opportunity that was made at its founding more than two centuries ago. Pride in this Department of Justice for being a part of an extraordinary movement that has made its way from a bar in Greenwich Village to the steps of the Supreme Court to a White House draped in the rainbow flag, but most of all let us express our pride, admiration and gratitude for all of you here today – and in the LGBT community and its millions of allies who have spent decades performing small acts of courage – who stood up, came out and carried on every day in the face of antagonism, in defiance of threats and in pursuit of the chance to live freely and without fear.”

Shannon Minter, a transgender man and legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, delivered the keynote remarks at the event, recalling amid anti-trans attacks the sense of hope he felt listening to Lynch announce the Obama administration lawsuit against HB 2.

“I literally felt my head lift, my back straighten, my spirit restored and my sense of dignity as a human being return,” Minter said. “As she perfectly put it that day, this issue is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect for our fellow citizens.”

Singing the National Anthem at the event was Rick Knight of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. The Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award was presented to Minter and the James R. Douglass Award was presented to Ashley Evans, an FBI intelligence analyst and chair of FBI Pride.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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