Read the full transcript of the press conference here.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Monday, May 9, that the U.S. Department of Justice was responding to a lawsuit filed against the federal government by Gov. McCrory with one of their own.
The Justice Department had given the state until today to state that they would stop enforcing HB2. McCrory chose to sue instead to determine if the bill is discriminatory, despite the fact that Lynch claims they were open to talks with he and other lawmakers about possibly extending the deadline.
“Today, we are filing a federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina,” Lynch said at a press conference. “We are seeking a court order declaring HB2’s restroom restriction impermeably discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement.”
Lynch announced that while the federal government was not pulling Title IX funding at this time, they “retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.”
She said that they remain open to discussions with the state, as well as any other states who might wonder if legislation they are considering will run afoul of federal law.
“But this action is about a great deal more than bathrooms This is about the dignity and respect that 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,” Lynch said.
“We see you,” Lynch said to transgender Americans. “We stand with you…And please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on the promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that ideal, little by little, day by day. And it may not be easy, but we will get there together.”
When asked why the lawsuit did not deal with HB2 allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBT people, Lunch pointed out that there was already a lawsuit filed, by the ACLU, Equality NC and Lambda Legal, dealing with that issue and that they support that action.
“To the extent that states, or any jurisdictions, may pass laws that allow businesses or anyone else to discriminate, we will always review those laws and see if there is in fact a basis for federal review and intervention…And where we see laws that are on the books now, we are actively reviewing and monitoring those,” Lynch said.
“This is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, of diversity, of compassion and open-mindedness,” Lunch said. “And what we must not do, what we must never do, is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something that they cannot control and deny what makes them human.
“And this is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insist that someone pretend to be something or someone that they are not. Or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination or harassment.”
Lynch asked that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, arguing “state sanctioned discrimination never looks good and never works in hindsight.”
Lynch also dealt with the question of discrimination based on sex including gender identity.
“Our lawsuit makes clear that it’s our position that federal law has been clear for some time now that discrimination against sex includes discrimination against individuals based on sexual identity, gender identity,” she said. “The law is clear, the cases are clear, and the Fourth Circuit recently made it clear, frankly only about two weeks ago.”