WASHINGTON, D.C. — A ceremony took place on June 28 at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), honoring lawyers who fought North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), as well as transgender teen Gavin Grimm. All honorees were recognized for serving the LGBTQ community, both nationally and within the DOJ.
The organization hosting the ceremony, DOJ Pride, was founded during President Barack Obama’s administration. DOJ Pride consists of LGBTQ employees of the department, as well as their allies. The organization has continued its efforts in spite of the current administration’s apparent opposition to progressive policies concerning LGBTQ rights.
According to its website, DOJ Pride aims to serve as a resource, identify and address issues for LGBTQ employees, and “to support the Department in the development and implementation of effective policies and practices for the elimination of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The head of the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is notorious to activists for his anti-LGBTQ history. Under his leadership, the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era guidance requiring that public schools respect students’ gender identities to in deciding which bathrooms and changing rooms the students may use.
Still more anti-LGBTQ nominees for central federal positions were announced by the new administration throughout its initial months. Attorney Eric Dreiband defended HB2 in court before being named a nominee to head the Trump administration’s Civil Rights Division.
Sessions was notably absent at the ceremony, which a spokeswoman attributed to “scheduling conflicts.”
Meanwhile, DOJ Pride’s ceremony honored lawyers who served in the Civil Rights Division under then Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a lawsuit against North Carolina for HB2. The suit claimed that invalidating transgender persons’ gender identities in reference to public facilities constituted sex discrimination under Title XI of the Civil Rights Act.
These lawyers were honored alongside Virginia transgender teenager Gavin Grimm, who sued his high school for banning him from using the boys’ restroom. Grimm’s case was headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, until it was stopped short by the Trump administration’s revoked guidance.
DOJ Pride voted to honor Grimm in recognition of his “outstanding contributions to the LGBT community.” Just a high school junior when the lawsuit began, Grimm became a national icon for the LGBTQ fight for true equality.
Although reporters were banned from the ceremony itself, Grimm spoke to The Associated Press (AP) afterward. He said that attending DOJ Pride’s event revitalized his determination to keep fighting for himself and his community.
“Given that today’s administration is largely hostile to LGBT people and especially dangerous to LGBT youth, the gravity of receiving an award from DOJ itself, specifically the pride alliance within it, is not lost on me at all,” Grimm told The Associated Press after the ceremony. “It’s beautifully symbolic of the fact that there are still people working for equality in every corner of the world, and they will continue to do so no matter what happens.”