The rights of transgender and gay students are protected at school by Title IX, President Joe Biden’s administration said on Wednesday, overturning GOP guidelines that these students were not protected by any federal law.
The Education Department’s announcement comes not only during Pride Month, but also during a nationwide debate on whether trans athletes should be allowed to compete in sports that match their identity as kind. Such debates have sparked a wave of anti-trans legislation from state legislatures led by the GOP.
“Today, the Department is making it clear that all students, including LGBTQ + students, deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools free from discrimination,” the Education Secretary said , Miguel Cardona, in a press release.
“The Supreme Court upheld the right of LGBTQ + people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion and discrimination – and our LGBTQ + students have the same rights and deserve the same protections. ”
The interpretation of the law overturns directives issued under former President Donald Trump. That administration, in turn, had repealed the guidelines under which Title IX applied to discrimination based on gender identity.
“This is a day transgender children and their families have been waiting for,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. The Biden administration, Heng-Lehtinen said, “will defend their right to participate fully in school.”
Wednesday’s news comes a year after the Supreme Court ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected by the Civil Rights Act, legislation that prohibits discrimination in the workplace. The Department of Education’s interpretation indicates that gay and transgender students will enjoy the same protections in schools.
The new guidelines are especially important for students in places where state-level protections for transgender youth do not exist, said Christy Mallory, legal director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity. law and politics.
More than half of all states lack comprehensive guidelines for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students, according to a study by GLSEN, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ + youth.
Title IX guidelines changed under Obama, Trump and Biden
Former President Barack Obama’s administration made it clear to schools in 2016 that Title IX, a 1972 law banning sex discrimination in schools, protects transgender students.
In 2017, the Trump administration repealed the Obama-era guidelines that defined the legal responsibilities of schools. The Trump administration also threatened to halt federal funding for schools that allowed transgender students to participate in school sports.
Former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also suggested that the Office of Civil Rights, a branch of the Department of Education, would not investigate complaints of discrimination against transgender students.
None of these actions changed the law, but they created confusion.
Wednesday’s notice clarifies this confusion by reminding public schools of their Title IX obligation to provide safe and non-discriminatory environments for LGBTQ students, said Paul D. Castillo, lawyer and student rights strategist at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization that defends LGBTQ people. And that indicates that the Civil Rights Bureau will examine their complaints with the same vigor as other complaints, he added.
A series of bills targeting the rights of transgender people have been introduced in states across the country this year. Among the laws, there are at least 69 bills that would ban transgender youth from participating in sports on teams compatible with their gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which declared 2021 “the worst year for legislation. anti-LGBTQ in recent history. “
While the new rules don’t explicitly mention transgender athletes, Mallory suspects that specific advice will eventually come. Either way, complaints about LGBTQ + discrimination in athletics could be investigated under updated Title IX guidelines, as the law covers the sport.
Still, legal proceedings over the interpretation of Title IX could be forthcoming.
Republican lawmakers introducing bills that would restrict transgender athletes say they want to protect opportunities for girls, including access to sports scholarships. One of the anti-transgender sports bills to become law in Idaho was backed by Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based legal group founded by Christian conservatives.
The new directive “imposes a radical gender identity on ordinary Americans,” said Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the alliance. “This misinterprets the US Supreme Court precedent and is yet another example of government overtaking.”