(Adds comments from Alliance Defending Freedom and Equal Rights Advocates in last two paragraphs.)
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are protected under an almost five-decades-old law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal money, the Education Department said.
The agency’s guidance Wednesday marks its latest reversal of actions by the Trump administration, which scrapped 2016 guidance protecting those students under Title IX and said states could decide. The Biden administration put forth the new guidance as states are seeking measures to restrict transgender students from participating in girls’ and women’s sports.
President Joe Biden in an executive order directed agencies that a U.S. Supreme Court decision from last year on LGBT workplace rights should be interpreted to apply to areas such as schools, housing, and immigration.
The high court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that workplace discrimination protections under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act cover LGBT workers. Courts have frequently interpreted the reasoning in Title VII decisions to apply as well to those under Title IX, enacted in 1972.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the right for 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,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. He said he “directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination.”
Restrictions in States
LBGT students’ rights have been targeted in scores of states. Several, backed by national religious and conservative groups, have passed laws restricting transgender students’ ability to participate on school sports teams matching their gender identities.
LGBT advocates are pushing the Senate to pass legislation to codify protections for LGBT people in areas like housing and employment. The House passed the bill, known as the Equality Act (H.R. 5), by a 224-206 vote in February.
The Education Department this month held hearings on the enforcement of Title IX, the first step toward rewriting Trump administration regulations governing the response to sexual misconduct in schools. New Title IX regulations could encompass issues such as protections for transgender students.
Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the guidance will offer strong and clear protections against bias in schools.
“This announcement reflects our shared commitment to providing all students a safe and welcoming environment, and it aligns the Education Department’s interpretation of civil rights law with the definition established by the Supreme Court last year,” he said in a statement.
The Education Department’s Title IX interpretation “will guarantee every student a truly equitable experience in school and school sports, no matter their gender identity,” Noreen Farrell, executive director of the women’s rights group Equal Rights Advocates, said in a statement.
Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group that’s backed state restrictions on transgender students, disagreed. The guidance is politically motivated and “another example of government overreach,” she said in an email.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org