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Top DOJ Civil Rights Lawyer Resigns So She Can Battle DOJ's Attack on Civil Rights

"You are seeing a brain drain out of the DOJ that is not normal, and it is a reflection of how aberrant this attorney general has been, with not only reversal of positions but targeting of communities."

Jessica Corbett

Diana Flynn has worked for the Department of Justice since 1984. (Photo: Diana Flynn/BuzzFeed)

A top civil rights attorney who has spent her entire law career at the Department of Justice is leaving to work for the nation's largest LGBTQ litigation group, Lambda Legal, in a move that will likely mean fighting against Attorney General Jeff Sessions' efforts to fortify the Trump administration's attacks on LGBTQ rights.

"It appears to me—at this crucial time for LGBT rights—to make the arguments I want to make and take positions I want to take, I would be much better situated at Lambda Legal than I am at Justice."
—Diana Flynn, former DOJ attorney

"It appears to me—at this crucial time for LGBT rights—to make the arguments I want to make and take positions I want to take, I would be much better situated at Lambda Legal than I am at Justice," Diana Flynn, who is a transgender woman, told BuzzFeed News.

"I see attempts to roll back specifically LGBT rights in the courts and society," she said, "and I want to be in the position where I can aggressively resist that and make the arguments that I think will be most effective."

Although Flynn declined to discuss her experience working in the Trump administration as it rolls back policies meant to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination—she said she sees "a danger to some of the principles that have been established in the civil rights arena generally"—others were quick to make the connection.

"From the first day Sessions came to the DOJ, he has been dismantling decades of work that Diana Flynn had been doing," asserted Lambda Legal's strategy director Sharon McGowan, who left the department in February 2017. "You are seeing a brain drain out of the DOJ that is not normal, and it is a reflection of how aberrant this attorney general has been, with not only reversal of positions but targeting of communities."

Vanita Gupta, the former chief of the department's civil rights division, said that with Sessions "at the helm, rolling back civil rights progress on so many fronts, it comes as no surprise that the federal government continues to lose incredibly talented attorneys like Diana. Jeff Sessions' loss is the civil rights community's gain."

Flynn went to work for the department in 1984, after she graduated from Yale Law School. While turnover at all federal agencies is common between presidential administrations, Flynn has led the Civl Rights Division Appellate Section for more than two decades under six presidents—two Democrats and four Republicans.

"I never really expected to leave," Flynn admitted. Faced with the prospect of fighting against her former DOJ colleagues in the courtroom, she said, "it would be strange, but it's something we could deal with."

"Lambda Legal has been at the forefront of every major legal advance for our community," Flynn added in statement on Thursday. "I am excited for this incredible opportunity to bring my passion and skills to the effort to ensure the rights of queer and HIV+ people."

Others who defend LGBTQ rights in court and beyond celebrated Flynn's move to Lambda Legal, which is currently challenging the President Donald Trump's attempt to bar transgender individuals from military service.


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