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Lang writes: "Loretta Lynch's rousing, powerful speech is already being called the trans movement's 'I Have a Dream' moment. It couldn't come at a better time."

Attorney General Loretta Lynch. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

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Loretta Lynch's Defense of Transgender Rights Was Brilliant. When Will Democrats Follow Her Lead and Speak Up?

By Nico Lang, Los Angeles Times

11 May 16


n Monday, U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch stood before the American public and delivered the most powerful rejection of North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom bill, HB 2, of any public official to date. Comparing HB 2 to Jim Crow, Lynch argued that the North Carolina fight is about more than where trans people go to the restroom, it’s a battle over basic human rights. “This is about the dignity and respect 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,” she said. “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.”

The rousing, powerful speech is already being called the trans movement’s “I Have a Dream” moment.

It couldn’t come at a better time.

"Bathroom bills" similar to North Carolina’s have been spreading like wildfire in state legislatures across the country. But perhaps even worse than the loss of basic civil rights for the transgender community is the dangerous, hostile, and even deadly environment that LGBT Americans face every single day. On May 1, Reecey Walker, a transgender woman, was found stabbed to death in her Wichita, Kan., apartment. Walker’s was the tenth homicide of a transgender woman this year. Last year, 23 trans women were slain across the U.S., a majority of whom were people of color.

Lynch’s address, set amid this under-reported backdrop of violence, made her speech all the more meaningful. That said, one of the reasons Lynch’s speech was so desperately needed was that it occurred in somewhat of a political vacuum. While transgender people are being forced out of public bathrooms and are being killed in the streets, the Democratic presidential candidates have remained stunningly silent on the issues facing the most vulnerable segments of the LGBT community.

It’s time for Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders to step up their commitment to equality at a pivotal moment for queer and trans people across the country.

Thus far, the White House hopefuls have chosen to lead from behind, allowing the Republican contenders to utterly dominate the conversation on trans issues. Before dropping out of the GOP presidential race, Sen. Ted Cruz came out vocally in support of legislation like HB 2. During an MSNBC town hall, the Texas Republican called anti-trans bathroom bills “perfectly reasonable,” arguing that “men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls.” Cruz was so against equal access in public accommodations for LGBT people that it even became part of his stump speech.

After a transgender woman was harassed while riding the New York subway last week, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton issued a declaration of support on her Facebook page. “Pearl, I’m so sorry that you experienced this,” Clinton said. “Every single person deserves to be safe and live free from discrimination and cruelty, period. And transgender people need to hear from every one of us that you are loved, respected, and deserving of equality under the law.” This statement is nearly identical to her October 2015 speech to the Human Rights Campaign on LGBT equality. “Transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us,” Clinton said.

But since her HRC address, Clinton’s social media account has spoken louder than she has. After HB 2 was signed into law on March 23, the former secretary of State remarked on Twitter, “LGBT people should be protected from discrimination under the law—period.” Sanders issued a similar response to the bill. “It's time to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the Vermont independent said. “This law has no place in America.” But aside from a handful of statements, LGBT rights have largely remained on the back burner this election.

That’s not to say that both candidates haven’t been vocal allies in the past. While mayor of Burlington, Sanders supported Vermont’s first-ever Pride parade back in 1983. The state he represents was also the first to approve civil unions in 2000. During her tenure as secretary of State, Clinton was instrumental in changing federal policy to allow trans people to change their gender marker on U.S. passports. As the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Mara Keisling once remarked, that decision “saved lives.”

But where have those politicians been in 2016? Where’s the Sanders who, as the Daily Beast’s Gina Tron phrased it, made Burlington into “an '80s trans mecca"? Where’s the Clinton who famously told the United Nations in 2011 that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights”? That Clinton has been busy thanking the late Nancy Reagan for her “low-key advocacy” in spreading HIV awareness during the 1980s. In truth, the Reagans ignored the crisis while people died in the streets. The frontrunner would apologize twice for the painfully misjudged gaffe, but it’s sad that, as of late, Clinton’s apologies have been more passionate than her advocacy.

Lynch’s speech should be a call to action for the Democratic candidates: We need educated, committed advocates who are as vocal on the front lines as those who are pushing to roll back the rights of LGBT individuals across the country. As of April, nine other states were considering their own "bathroom bills." These laws will only encourage the violence and discrimination so many trans Americans experience every day. As the Williams Institute reports, 70% of transgender people have been harassed in a public bathroom, and more bills like HB 2 will only serve to further put a target on their backs.

Democratic candidates have long leaned on the LGBT community for financial support for their campaigns, as well as relying on our votes to get elected. As the Democratic primaries wind to a close, if Clinton and Sanders expect this support to continue, they will need to start fighting harder for our lives. your social media marketing partner


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+6 # treerapper 2016-05-12 01:53
What we need in our body politic is representatives who still think they are people instead of something superior. What's been forgotten is that elected officials are OUR employees - paid by taxpayer dollars. They are PUBLIC SERVANTS, not the other way around.

We need to start treating them as ordinary people who work for us and they need to get their glorified asses to work for the people who elected them and are paying their too-big salaries, pensions, healthcare, gym membership and on and on.
0 # Johnny 2016-05-12 09:28
Dream on. They are not "our employees." They take their orders from Goldman-Sachs and AIPAC.
+1 # NAVYVET 2016-05-12 06:18
The writer hasn't been listening to Bernie Sanders' speeches--obvio usly! But what do we expect from the big "news"papers except sloppy journalism?

-2 # Johnny 2016-05-12 09:26
Anything to keep our minds off our real problems.
+1 # HowardMH 2016-05-12 09:31
Loretta was BRILLIANT! It is a crying shame, Obama is not smart enough and has back bone enough to follow her lead.

Not months, not weeks, not days, but a couple hours after NC said go to hell Fed Gov, Loretta smashed him right in the mouth with a real haymaker. He is so burnt toast, and it would be smart if the people in NC took a serious lesson from Loretta, but they will not, because they are just like MS, LA, AL, and Kansas - too stupid to even understand what is going on.
-5 # WaaDoo 2016-05-12 09:45
Ah, Loretta Lynch.

Appointed by a Clinton first, then by PUTZUS. More concerned about boys peeing in a girls bathroom than the treason of HRC. Well, what can you expect....

come to think of it.....

I was once a Male trapped in a female body !!

+2 # BrainiacV 2016-05-12 12:43
The Christian Conservative RWNJ's are already calling it a false comparison and a redefinition of sex from the intent of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. As well as another instance of federal judicial overreach. (They're still fuming over the gay marriage rights decision.)

I think they are wrong, but thought you should know how they want to frame it.
0 # economagic 2016-05-12 22:18
The REAL effects of the bathroom/locker room parts of HB2 are being ignored. Consider a transgender female (born with male genitalia) entering a restroom assigned to "Men." She is open to assault, possibly rape or murder, regardless of the attacker's assumption about her genitals.

Then consider a transgender male (born with female genitalia) entering a restroom assigned to "Women." He may be subject to arrest in the likely event that a woman feels threatened by a person in male attire in the restroom.

But good sense was not the purpose of the bill. Further disfranchising workers in one of most labor-unfriendl y states in the union (which many residents to this day deny) was the purpose, along with whipping the "religious conservative" Republican base into a frenzy to get out the vote lest Governor McCroney fall to his largely DINO challenger.

People living in the first millennium B.C. have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea that sex and gender are not simple binary phenomena.
+1 # Art947 2016-05-12 22:00
There is so much stupidity going around in the Republican party that one does know where to start in commenting.

Ted Cruz worries about a man going into a restroom with little girls. What happens when a young father is out shopping with his daughter and either one needs to use the rest room? Should he escort her into the "women's room"? Should be bring her into the "men's room"? (BTW, I have seen young girls in men's restrooms many times in such a situation.)

Would someone please enlighten me as to how "naked" someone is when they are using a restroom? Since the women's room typically has separate compartments (with locking doors)how "exposed" are these women? Note: the etiquette in a men's room does not usually include men staring at each other's genitalia!

Mr. McCrory (NC governor) indicated, in response to the DoJ lawsuite, that they couldn't accomplish any changes in the limited time they were given. Note that this prevaricator and his comrades only needed 12 hours and a special session of the legislature to pass HB2! Should we ever trust a politician?
0 # economagic 2016-05-12 22:07
We call him McCroney hereabouts.

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