(WASHINGTON) — James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, weighed in on the national debate about transgender bathroom access on Wednesday.
Clapper addressed the issue directly, declaring in a press release that when it comes to facilities within his buildings, “You can use whatever restroom you feel comfortable and safe in.”
The press release was issued just before he began speaking at the Fifth Annual Intelligence Community Pride Summit held at Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I won’t dwell on the issue of transgender rights,” his statement said. “I know our nation is currently engaged in a complex conversation with strong feelings on both sides. But here in the IC [intelligence community], we have the chance to lead by example.”
The press release noted that Clapper is a “self-proclaimed ‘intelligence geezer’ whose own professional experience parallels Americans’ changing attitudes toward the LGBTA community.”
At Wednesday’s Pride Summit, he was joined by FBI Director James Comey and DIA Director Vincent Stewart — a rare moment for all three government officials to speak to one group together.
Clapper thanked LGBTA activists for their tireless work, before acknowledging the challenges for the community going forward.
“When I consider the injustices still experienced, highlighted for example by the ongoing national debate over the rights of transgender Americans, I know, yet still, our work is not done,” he said.
Later, Comey encouraged an environment of respect for employees, saying, “Diversity enriches not just the FBI, not just the intelligence community, but our country as a whole.”
After the keynote speeches, roughly 1,000 intelligence community participants from around the world will take part in “breakout sessions” on topics ranging from LGBT ally training to trans inclusivity, according to the press release.
Obama Administration Pushes for LGBT Rights
The Obama administration has advocated strongly for what it says is the right of transgender individuals to choose the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
On May 9, the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit over North Carolina’s controversial House bill, part of which bans people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.
Also in May, a joint letter from the Education and Justice Departments issued guidelines to public schools to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”
The Obama administration has overseen sweeping reforms for the LGBT community, including its repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which allowed openly gay service members to join the armed forces, the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that forces states allow same sex marriage.
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