Former ACLU deputy legal director Vanita Gupta now heads the Justice Department's civil rights division. Along with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Gupta announced this week that the Department of Justice is suing the state of North Carolina following the passage of HB 2, a dangerous and discriminatory bill targeting transgender people in the state.
The Washington Post's Sari Horwitz examined the significance of the two attorneys at the center of the DOJ's suit:
"On Monday, there was a remarkable moment at the Department of Justice: two women of color who had personally experienced the pain of prejudice walked to the podium to announce the Justice Department’s discrimination lawsuit against the state of North Carolina.
"The two top Justice Department officials – one the daughter of Indian immigrants and the other the granddaughter of a “dirt poor” sharecropper and minister in the deep South – linked the growing controversy over transgender access to restrooms in North Carolina to the civil rights battles of the 1960s. ...
"Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that calling the new North Carolina law a bathroom bill 'trivializes what this is really about.'
"'The complaint we filed today speaks to public employees who feel afraid and stigmatized on the job,' Gupta said. 'It speaks to students who feel like their campus treats them differently because of who they are. It speaks to sports fans who feel forced to choose between their gender identity and their identity as a Tar Heel. And it speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior — like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in.'
"Gupta’s parents immigrated to the United States from India in the late 1960s, but she spent some of her childhood in England and France because her father worked for an international company. She has recalled to reporters an incident when she was 4 and was in a McDonald’s in London with her parents and a grandmother visiting from India. A group of skinheads came in, yelled 'Go home Pakis!' They then threw french fries and other food at Gupta and her family until Gupta, her parents and her grandmother left. ...
"Citing federal laws, Gupta said the law sexually discriminates against transgender people, and its proponents are misinterpreting or making up facts about gender identity.
"'Here are the facts,' Gupta said sternly. 'Transgender men are men — they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women — they live, work and study as women.'"