|Attorney General Loretta Lynch|
The “others” about him Jesus was most concerned, were always those on the margins. It is hard to think about a more marginalized group in American society than the transgender community.
This was a good week for those on the margins.
On Monday the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, asserting that the state’s recent enactment of HB2, a law compelling transgender persons to us the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, and generally prohibiting cities from enacting laws protecting LGBTQ people, violated their civil rights.
Echoing themes from the Hebrew prophets and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the law as “state sponsored discrimination.” Though she did not explicitly compare it to Jim Crow laws, she made the connection clear.
“You have been told,” Lynch declared, “that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm. That is just not the case.” And she explained: “What this law does is inflict further indignity for a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does is harm innocent Americans.”
Speaking to the transgender community across the country, she promised, "We stand with you. And we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side."
Today, the Department of Education made good on that promise by issuing a letter to every school district in the country informing them that discrimination against transgender students is a violation of federal civil rights laws.
Education Secretary John B. King issued a statement saying that “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus.’
Sounding more like a pastor than a school administrator, King spoke of what he wanted the educational community to look like: “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are and wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
In an article in The Atlantic, Matt Ford describes the letter as providing “the most detailed federal guidance yet for educators on transgender students and their rights, the departments interpret anti-discrimination laws to apply when a parent or guardian tells school administrators about their child’s gender identity.”
The letter specifically tells school districts that they cannot discriminate against students who choose a bathroom or locker room based on their gender identity rather than the gender on their birth certificate. There are also guidelines on athletics, graduation ceremonies, yearbooks, and other programs.
Ford observes that the letter does not carry legal force, but it puts administrators and teachers that “discrimination against transgender students could bring sanctions, including the painful loss of federal funding.”
For those who care about justice and treating others as we would like to be treated, it was a good week.