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North Carolina, White House in showdown over transgender rights

The Department of Justice has filed a complaint against the government of North Carolina for a law that restricts bathroom use for transgender individuals. The governor has defended the law as a matter of public safety.

The battle between North Carolina's governor and the Obama administration began to heat up on Monday as they

filed competing lawsuits

against each other over the rights of transgender Americans. The argument stems from a new law passed in the southern state in March that requires people to use the public restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch (pictured above), a North Carolina native, called the statue "state-sponsored discrimination" and compared it to laws enforcing racial segregation.

"This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms," she said a press conference. "This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them."

In a battle of wills over civil rights violations and government intrusion, the office of North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, filed a lawsuit against the US Justice Department on Monday for "baseless and blatant overreach."

Hours later, the Justice Department responded in kind by asking a district court in North Carolina to declare that the state is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lynch also reminded Governor McCrory that the federal government would not rule out withholding much-needed funding over the issue.

Lynch: Obama administration stands with trans community

Speaking to the transgender community as she publicly announced the suit, Lynch said "no matter how isolated, no matter how afraid, and no matter how alone you may feel today, know this -- that the Department of Justice and indeed the entire Obama administration want you to know that we see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward."

McCrory has defended the law as a legal necessity after North Carolina's largest city, Charlotte, expanded legal protection for sexual minorities. "This caused major privacy concerns about males entering female facilities or females entering male facilities," he told reporters in the wake of the national outcry over the law.

A number of big companies and high-profile entertainers have nixed plans for events and investment in the state in protest. Within weeks of McCrory signing the bill into law, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr and Cyndi Lauper had all canceled their upcoming concerts in the North Carolina, while companies such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank scrapped expansion plans, costing the state around 650 jobs.

es/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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