“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. It may not be easy – but we will get there together.”
-United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch[i]
This statement from US Attorney General Loretta Lynch closed the press conference on May 9, 2016, when the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is suing the state of North Carolina, its Governor Pat McCory, its Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina. The DOJ is suing in order to invalidate North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as House Bill 2. The bill, in part, requires transgender people to use public bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms based their biological sex, rather than their gender identity.[ii]
House Bill 2, which was passed the North Carolina General Assembly on March 23, has received stark criticism from across the country and incited boycotts from celebrities and businesses planning to work in the state.[iii] In early May, the DOJ notified state officials that this law violated federal civil rights laws and asked the state to certify that it would not implement the bathroom restriction of the law.[iv] In response, North Carolina sued the Department of Justice, and the Department of Justice sued right back.
The legal arguments are significant in order to understand federal civil rights and how they affect LGBTQ Americans. But the focus of this case study is not the legal arguments, but rather how Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke directly to North Carolinians and transgender Americans in her announcement of the lawsuit. Lynch did not merely announce the DOJ’s legal action against the state, but practiced the principle of connecting with those audiences most directly impacted by this lawsuit on their terms.