On Wednesday, the Department of Education said public schools cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under a new Biden administration policy that will impact such contentious issues as sports and the usage of bathrooms and locker rooms.
The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued a "Notice of Interpretation" and stated it was building on the Supreme Court's Bostock v. Clayton County decision "to make clear that the Department interprets Title IX's prohibition on sex discrimination to encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
Title IX is a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities. The Supreme Court, in Bostock, ruled that federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although that decision involved employers and employees, the Department of Education said Wednesday the legal reasoning can extend to education.
The new policy reverses a Trump-era policy.
"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. I'm proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination," said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "Today, the Department makes clear that all students – including LGBTQ+ students – deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination."
The Department of Education's decision impacts multiple hot-button issues, including the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by students who identify with the opposite gender. It also affects athletics and the controversy over biological boys competing in girls' events. In its new policy, the Department of Education says it will "fully enforce Title IX" to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity "in education programs and activities." The latter term includes sports.
Four females who played high school sports sued a Connecticut governing body over its decision to allow biological males who identify as female to compete in girls' sports. The state's policy permitted two transgender athletes, Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller, to win a total of 15 state track titles. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the students, argues the state's policy violates Title IX.
"All female athletes deserve access to fair competition; that means authentically equal opportunities to compete, achieve, and win. But competition is no longer fair when males are permitted to compete in girls' sports," ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said last month. "Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls. Those differences are why we have girls' sports in the first place."
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.