(CNSNews.com) - The head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where the new "guidance" on transgenders originated, says she has experienced racial discrimination first-hand.
Vanita Gupta spoke on Sunday to a legal advocacy group called Muslim Advocates, which honored her with an award named after the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
In the course of her speech, Gupta spoke mostly about religious discrimination and bullying in schools. Then she got personal:
"I want to close tonight by telling you one final story about discrimination -– not from the Justice Department, but from my own life.
"As a four-year-old child, I remember sitting in a McDonald’s in London one day with my family. And as I sat there eating my meal, along with my mother, sister and grandmother, a group of skinheads began to shout ethnic slurs, throwing fries at us until we left the restaurant.
"I don’t remember much about life as a four year old. But I do remember that day. And I remember it vividly –- as a real image of bigotry in a diverse world. This story may sound familiar to some of you. Perhaps it resonates in some way to a similar moment in your life.
"But even if it does not –- and regardless of one’s racial or ethnic background -– many of us can relate to that feeling of people staring at us, or speaking to us, like somehow we don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in. And we know all too well the dangerous consequences that occur when others try to exploit differences with discrimination."
Gupta indicated that without action by the Civil Rights Division, "landmark laws" and Supreme Court rulings are not enough to shield people from discrimination:
"[T]oday we still see a real gap between what the law guarantees on one hand, and what people experience on the other. And we see how this gap continues to harm some of the most vulnerable among us, including people trapped by poverty, communities of color, LGBTI individuals and diverse religious communities.
"In the Civil Rights Division, we work tirelessly to close this gap by enforcing the law to ensure that all people in this country can feel safe, supported and free."