May 10, 2016 at 10:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Lynch garners praise for defending transgender Americans

Loretta Lynch, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has garnered praise for her defense of transgender Americans in her May 9, 2016, press conference that announced a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2. (Photo by ibtimes.com; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Transgender activists on Monday were quick to applaud U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch after she announced the Justice Department had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2.

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer wrote in the Huffington Post that she cried while listening to Lynch’s remarks, which contained a number of specific references to the trans community. Beyer also praised Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta for pointing out during Monday’s press conference in Washington that “transgender men are men — they live, work and study as men” and “transgender women are women — they live, work and study as women.”

“Today was the trans community’s 60s civil rights moment, that moment when the United States government stood tall and proud and told a state of the neo-Confederacy that they were in violation of multiple laws in their pursuit of transphobic discrimination,” wrote Beyer.

Monica Roberts, a Houston-based trans activist who publishes the TransGriot blog, told the Washington Blade that she was crying when Lynch said, “We see you; we stand with you and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”

“It made me exceedingly proud that our attorney general said that,” Roberts told the Blade. “It made me prouder still as an unapologetic black trans American that she was the person saying these words on national television while serving at the pleasure of the first African American president who is the undisputed champ when it comes to trans human rights issues.”

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a California-based activist, organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance as a way to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman who was murdered inside her Boston apartment in 1998.

Smith on Monday wrote on her Twitter page that Lynch’s comments gave her “life” and “humanity.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in March signed HB 2, which prohibits trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and bans local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit alleges that HB 2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also accuses the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina of violating Title VII, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Act through their compliance with the law.

Then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014 said Title VII — which specifically addresses workplace discrimination — protects trans people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled last summer that discrimination based upon sexual orientation amounts to sex discrimination under the statute.

Title IX bans schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.

The Justice Department has said Title IX requires school districts to allow trans students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on April 19 ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a trans student who challenged his Virginia school district over its policy that prevents him from using the boys restroom or locker room.

North Carolina is among the states that fall under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“Trans rights are human rights, and our lives and humanity are not up for debate or demonization for GOP political advantage,” Roberts told the Blade. “While I’m happy Attorney General Lynch said the DOJ and the Obama administration supported the trans community, it’s tempered by the need for me and other trans elders to see the deeds of the Department of Justice match the eloquent words of Attorney General Lynch when it comes to protecting and vigorously defending the civil rights of trans Americans.”

The Justice Department last week gave the McCrory administration a Monday deadline to stop enforcing HB 2. The Republican governor who is running for reelection filed a federal lawsuit against the Justice Department hours before Lynch’s press conference in Washington.

“After months of hearing state legislators in North Carolina and around the country spread demeaning myths about transgender people, accuse us of being dangerous predators and legislate state-sanctioned discrimination against us, it means a lot — to me, as a transgender woman, and everyone else who believes in equality — to hear our chief law enforcement officer to tell the entire nation that transgender people are worthy of respect, that we do not endanger anyone and that our government will do everything it can to enforce the law and protect us,” said National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling on Monday in a statement.

“It is time to recognize and respect transgender people for who we are,” she added.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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