Following an executive order from President Joe Biden directing federal agencies to defend LGBTQ students against discrimination, the Education Department has issued an official statement saying that Title IX does indeed ensure equal protection for LGBTQ students under federal law.
Jo Yurcaba of NBC News reported that the Department of Education has announced it “will interpret Title IX, a federal law that protects students from sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools, to [also] protect LGBTQ students from discrimination.”
According to Yurcaba, the policy change is a direct reversal of a Trump administration policy “rolling back Obama-era guidance that directed schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms, changing rooms and other school facilities that aligned with their gender identity.”
In the statement released after announcing the decision, the Department of Education said its interpretation of the law was directly drawn from the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“President Joe Biden issued an executive order in the first days of his presidency directing all federal agencies to implement the Bostock ruling and update their enforcement of sex discrimination protections accordingly,” Yurcaba reported.
In the Bostock case, Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch argued that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was the same as discrimination based on sex.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “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. 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.”
With its new directive in place, Yurcaba reported the Department of Education will now be able to address Title IX complaints from LGBTQ students, “reversing the Trump administration’s 2018 announcement that it wouldn’t investigate civil rights complaints from trans students prohibited from using school facilities that aligned with their gender identity.”
The policy could also be put to the test fairly quickly. In 2021 alone, eight states led by conservative lawmakers have already passed laws barring trans student-athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender. Legal cases challenging those bans are already underway and could be directly impacted by the Department of Education’s announcement.