The rights of transgender and gay students are protected at school by Title IX, President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday, reversing Trump-era guidance that said those students were not protected by any federal laws.
The announcement from the Department of Education comes not only during Pride month, but also during a national debate over whether transgender girls should be allowed to compete in sports that match their gender identities. Such debates have prompted a wave of anti-trans legislation from GOP-led state legislatures.
“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,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
“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.”
The interpretation of the law reverses guidance issued under former President Donald Trump, whose administration rescinded guidelines that said Title IX applied to discrimination based on gender identity.
Monday’s news comes one year after the Supreme Court ruled gay and transgender workers are protected by the Civil Rights Act, legislation that bans discrimination in the workplace. The Education Department’s interpretation suggests gay and transgender students will have those same protections in schools. The Trump administration had previously threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that allowed transgender students to participate in school sports.
What’s not clear, however, is what this new interpretation means for those anti-trans bills – and whether and how the Department of Education might enforce its ruling.
The Biden administration signaled early in its term that it would review Trump-era changes to Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools. The president signed an executive order in spring that established the White House Gender Policy Council to advance gender equality, combat systemic bias and also focus on transgender rights.