In case you missed it, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave an historic speech on Monday in response to a North Carolina law that targets the rights of transgender people.
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.
On March 23, North Carolina passed House Bill 2—in under 24 hours—which prohibits transgender individuals from using the public restroom that matches their gender identity. Shortly after, the Department of Justice ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban, arguing that it violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
North Carolina is the first state in the country to pass a law like this—also referred to as a “bathroom bill”—banning transgender people from using any public bathroom or changing room that does not match the sex on their birth certificate. House Bill 2 was passed in response to a local nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, North Carolina, similar to Houston’s very own HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), which prohibited discrimination based on many characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Proponents of House Bill 2, including North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, argue that it is intended to prevent men pretending to be women from entering women’s bathrooms to cause problems.
The argument that men dressed as women will suddenly be allowed to enter bathrooms to assault women and children is not only dangerous, it is disingenuous. Violence against women is a very real problem that needs to be addressed. But the solution to male violence is not to discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming people and make it more difficult for them to take care of their personal business in peace.
Unfortunately, legislation regulating who can and cannot use bathrooms is likely to become the new normal, if we allow it. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has already suggested that a similar law is likely to come to Texas during the next legislative session.
It is up to us to make our communities safer and more inclusive, so that every single person feels welcome and supported. As Lynch put it yesterday, “This is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness. What we must not do—what we must never do—is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human.”