North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday tried to turn the tables on the federal government’s top prosecutor, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, by saying her comparison of Jim Crow segregation to his state’s law banning transgender people from certain bathrooms was "an insult.”
“It’s an insult, and it’s a political statement instead of a legal statement,” the governor said on CNN, referring to comments that Lynch delivered while announcing a federal civil rights lawsuit against McCrory and other state officials on Monday.
Lynch had invoked policies used to ban people of color from certain public spaces in a speech that alleged illegal discrimination against transgender people in North Carolina.
“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference," she said.
But McCrory rebutted Wednesday, “Whether a boy can go into girls restroom — to correlate that to the civil rights movement — is totally irresponsible for the chief legal officer of the United States of America.”
The North Carolina law bans transgender people from using restrooms that align with their gender identity in government-run buildings and schools.
The Justice Department warned the state last week that the law violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace. McCrory in turn sued the Justice Department, asking a federal court to clarify the civil rights law’s scope. But in a rejoinder, Lynch filed the U.S. government’s own suit against McCrory and other state officials.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, McCrory blamed liberals for creating a national political debate when the the Charlotte City Council passed an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in spring. State officials not only nullified the policy by passing House Bill 2, they went further by also adding new state regulations for bathrooms.
“North Carolina has, for whatever reason, become the target of the left on this issue,” he said. “This is an agenda of the far left.”
Despite the Justice Department's position since 2014, McCrory also asserted on Wednesday that federal officials were imposing new rules this month banning transgender discrimination under Title VII.
“This is a new, sensitive issue for people on all sides,” he said, adding, “Now the Justice Department is making a civil-rights claim that every employer and every university must have gender expression and gender identity for bathrooms.”
“To have the Justice Department come out with a massive interpretation of the Civil Rights Act for every employer is something that I think needs clarification from the federal courts.”
However, the Justice Department’s argument is not new to North Carolina. In December 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced this was the government’s position going forward in employment litigation.
“I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Attorney General Eric Holder wrote at the time.
Saying that he was asking courts for clarity, McCrory added, “we will follow the law.”
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.