U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s powerful and impassioned remarks Monday about the rights of transgender Americans stand as a seminal moment in the long struggle for full LGBT equality. Lynch could have simply announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed a lawsuit against her home state of North Carolina declaring the state’s HB2 law “impermissibly discriminatory.”
But she used her national platform to not only place the transgender rights movement in the context of civil rights struggles of the past, but also to speak directly to transgender Americans.
Here are four reasons her historic speech is a milestone for transgender Americans:
1. She unequivocally assured transgender people that they deserve the respect and dignity afforded all Americans, as well as full protections of the law.
“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect 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.”
2. She put the anti-transgender HB2 in context drawing on other lamentable chapters in our nation’s history, when the inexorable march toward full equality prompted other harsh and discriminatory responses.
“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 fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.”
3. She exposed North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s lies about the transgender community and HB2.
“You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm – but that just is not the case. Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society – all it does is harm innocent Americans. “
4. She referenced shameful moments of state-sanctioned discrimination in North Carolina’s recent past, and the pain - and regret - it inflicted.
“Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight. It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference. We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time.”