FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Civil rights laws exist for anyone victimized because of a physical characteristic they can’t control, and that’s why the U.S. Justice Department challenged a North Carolina law that blocks some legal protections for LGBT citizens, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday.
Lynch’s comments came in response to criticism hours earlier by conservative black pastors and civil rights leaders. They blasted the attorney general for comparing House Bill 2 to Jim Crow laws that segregated blacks to inferior education and opportunities for nearly a century.
Lynch was visiting her native state for the first time since the Justice Department and North Carolina’s top Republican leaders filed competing lawsuits two weeks ago.
North Carolina’s new law excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protection and bars local governments from adopting their own anti-bias measures. The Justice Department lawsuit and the law’s supporters focused largely on provisions requiring transgender people to use public restrooms and showers corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.
Defenders of the law have argued that it is needed to protect people from being molested in bathrooms by men posing as transgender women. Lynch said earlier this month supporters of the law invented a problem “as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.”
While pushing for equal civil rights in North Carolina has historically meant ending discrimination against black Americans, civil rights laws are meant to cover everyone, Lynch said.