We witnessed history yesterday when we heard U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (a North Carolina native) announce the federal government's lawsuit against the state of North Carolina due to its "impermissibly discriminatory" legislation attacking transgender citizens, which is, she states, "state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals." If you haven't yet listened to Lynch's statement, I encourage you to click on the video and do so: it's history in the making. Her clear explication of the moral principles and democratic ideals at stake in what the media want to call the current "debate" about the humanity and rights of trans people is a model rhetorical declaration that will one day, I predict, be studied in American classrooms alongside Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms. This is about the dignity and the 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. 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.
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 the fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions that were intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.
And that right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution. In the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community.
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, indeed, 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. And it may not be easy—but we will get there together.
A statement that Brianna Wu captured in a widely circulated tweet yesterday:
Today, @LorettaLynch and Obama's department of justice chose to stand against bigotry in North Carolina.— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) May 9, 2016
Please RT pic.twitter.com/c9dA9PFqRk
Donald Trump and the angry racist straight white men who have fueled his movement are right to fear what people like Loretta Lynch represent: fierce intelligence wedded to moral conviction in the service of democratic ideals. Place Lynch beside Trump and ask which represents the future of a viable American democracy, and the answer will immediately leap out at anyone with a working brain and a functioning conscience — though, to the peril of our nation, I suspect it will not be so obvious to the many "angry" Americans cheering Mr. Trump on, including many with strong roots in the evangelical churches and the Catholic church who profess to be the staunchest of Christians and best exemplars of Christian morality.
More's the pity both for this democracy's health and for the moral authority of the Christian churches these true believers represent . . . .