The past 24 hours has presented America with the Trans Political Tipping Point. Calling Ted Cruz' loss in Indiana -- Indiana!! -- "a strange electoral victory" for the trans community, Dave Weigel of The Washington Post discussed how Cruz had made "men in the women's bathroom" the theme of his last stand in the presidential race. Kerry Eleveld discussed the Indiana situation in greater depth. The takeaway - in spite of using red meat for his evangelical base, they still rejected him, ending his quest for the presidency. Even the mainstream media has been paying attention, including Megyn Kelly on Fox and Jake Tapper on CNN. It looks like even cis people need to relieve themselves while they're out in public, too. We could not have conceived such a strange turn of events, stunning in both its breadth and depth, with cis, straight allies doing the work we've long refused to do for ourselves.
The conservative campaign to demonize trans people began many decades ago, but was subsumed by homophobia until 2007 when Montgomery County in suburban Maryland passed its gender identity law. That was the genesis of the "bathroom bill" campaigns, which included a stunt by the evangelical opposition to dress a man in a frilly blue dress and have him scamper through the women's locker room at the Rio Sport and Health Club in Gaithersburg just as the local news cameras were rolling. "See," they seemed to say, "this is such a prevalent problem that even when we're innocently standing here being interviewed this predator is invading women's privacy." The scam was repeatedly referenced by them and others for years. They lost that campaign and some others, while winning a few, culminating in their big win in Houston last Election Day.
Today, 183 days since the trans loss in Houston, in a campaign that was badly mismanaged by a national LGBT community so risk-averse it could not campaign on the only issue that mattered - bathrooms - the bell tolled. For Ted Cruz, avatar of hate for conservative America, and for our old friend, the Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory. Hubris had its comeuppance, once again.
While the defeat of the Cruz campaign running on transphobia was a significant electoral victory, the larger and more significant success came earlier today from the U.S. Department of Justice. As described by Buzzfeed's Dominic Holden, the Department of Justice boldly followed the path laid down by the EEOC (which just published this Fact Sheet on trans bathroom rights) over the past four years and declared, "The state is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees."
U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta sent the following letter to Governor McCrory today, with the first paragraph here:
Dear Governor McCrory:
This letter is to inform you that the Department of Justice has determined that, as a result of compliance with and implementation of North Carolina House Bill 2 ("H.B. 2"), both you and the State of North Carolina (the "State") are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). Specifically, the State is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees and both you, in your official capacity, and the State are engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by transgender employees of public agencies.
AAG Gupta continues:
H.B. 2, which took effect on March 23, 2016, is facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex because it treats transgender employees, whose gender identity does not match their "biological sex," as defined by H.B. 2, differently from similarly situated non-transgender employees. Under H.B.2, non-transgender state employees may access restrooms and changing facilities that are consistent with their gender identity in public buildings, while transgender state employees may not.
She closes with:
Based upon the above, we have concluded that, in violation of Title VII, the State is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against its employees and both you and the State are engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by employees of public agencies. When the Attorney General of the United States has a reasonable basis to believe that a state or person has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of Title VII, she may apply to the appropriate court for an order that will ensure compliance with Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-6(a). This responsibility has been delegated to the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.
Please advise the Department, therefore, no later than close of business on May 9, 2016 whether you will remedy these violations of Title VII, including by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement H.B. 2, and that it has notified employees of the State and public agencies that, consistent with federal law, they are permitted to access bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.
I'd call that a pretty robust response from the office of the Attorney General of the United States, and a very good day for not only all trans persons in North Carolina, but all those throughout the country. And the rest of America as well.
Make America great again? These events make it clear that we're still pretty great.