The Obama administration laid down the gauntlet over North Carolina's "bathroom law" on Monday, filing a civil rights lawsuit hours after the state filed its own lawsuit against federal efforts to quash the law. The federal lawsuit calls House Bill 2—which blocks local anti-discrimination measures, as well as requires transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match up with the gender on their birth certificate—"impermissibly discriminatory," the BBC reports. In a powerful statement to the press, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, declared that the "action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms," the Washington Post reports. "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," she said.
"We see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you," Lynch said of transgender people. She portrayed the fight against HB2's "state-sanctioned discrimination," which will have nationwide implications for transgender rights, as the latest civil rights battle, noting 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." The federal lawsuit accuses North Carolina of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employers from discriminating on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," but state officials argue that transgender people are not protected under Title VII of the act and only Congress can change this, CNN reports.