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More than half of states sue to block Biden Title IX rule protecting LGBTQ+ students

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More than half of states sue to block Biden Title IX rule protecting LGBTQ+ students

May 17, 2024 | 5:29 pm ET
By Shauneen Miranda
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More than half of states sue to block Biden Title IX rule protecting LGBTQ students
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More than half of states, all with Republican attorneys general, have sued to block a recent U.S. Department of Education final rule seeking to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Twenty-six GOP-led states are suing the Biden administration over changes to Title IX aiming to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in schools.

Less than a month after the U.S. Department of Education released its final rule seeking to protect against discrimination “based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics,” a wave of Republican attorneys general scrambled to challenge the measure.

The revised rule, which will go into effect on Aug. 1, requires schools “to take prompt and effective action when notified of conduct that reasonably may constitute sex discrimination in their education programs or activities.”

The lawsuits hail from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

All of the attorneys general in the 26 states suing over the final rule are part of the Republicans Attorneys General Association.

Various advocacy groups and school boards have also tacked onto the states’ legal actions. The lawsuits carry similar language and arguments in vehemently opposing the final rule. They say the new regulations raise First Amendment concerns and accuse the rule of violating the Administrative Procedure Act.

LGBTQ+ advocates say the revised rule offers students a needed protection and complies with existing law.

“Our kids’ experience in schools should be about learning, about making friends and growing as a young person. LGBTQ+ students deserve those same opportunities,” Sarah Warbelow, vice president of legal at the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said in an emailed statement. “In bringing these lawsuits, these state attorneys general are attempting to rob LGBTQ+ students of their rights, illustrating a complete disregard for the humanity of LGBTQ+ students.”

GOP states band together against new regulations

In the most recent effort, Alaska, Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming sued the Biden administration on Tuesday, accusing the Department of Education of seeking to “politicize our country’s educational system to conform to the radical ideological views of the Biden administration and its allies.”

The lawsuit claims that under the updated regulations, teachers, coaches and administrators would have to “acknowledge, affirm, and validate students’ ‘gender identities’ regardless of the speakers’ own religious beliefs on the matter in violation of the First Amendment.”

In another lawsuit, a group of Southern states —  Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — sued the administration in federal court in Alabama over the new regulations.

Republican Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said President Joe Biden “has brazenly attempted to use federal funding to force radical gender ideology onto states that reject it at the ballot box” since he took office.

“Now our schoolchildren are the target. The threat is that if Alabama’s public schools and universities do not conform, then the federal government will take away our funding,” Marshall said in a press release.

The lawsuit also drew praise from Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said “Biden is abusing his constitutional authority to push an ideological agenda that harms women and girls and conflicts with the truth.” He added that the Sunshine State will “not comply” and instead “fight back against Biden’s harmful agenda.”

Individual states sue the administration 

Meanwhile, some states have opted to file individual lawsuits against the administration.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration late last month in federal court in Amarillo. Paxton filed an amended complaint earlier this week, with two new plaintiffs added.

In an April 29 press release, Paxton said the Lone Star State “will not allow Joe Biden to rewrite Title IX at whim, destroying legal protections for women in furtherance of his radical obsession with gender ideology.”

Oklahoma’s Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration earlier this month in federal court in Oklahoma. The state’s education department also filed a separate suit against the Biden administration.

A hodgepodge of states 

In late April, Republican attorneys general in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in federal court in Kentucky.

The states argued that the U.S. Education Department “has used rulemaking power to convert a law designed to equalize opportunities for both sexes into a far broader regime of its own making.”

Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana also sued the Biden administration in late April, echoing the language seen in the other related lawsuits. Seventeen local school boards in Louisiana also joined the states.

Earlier this month, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota also brought a collective legal challenge to the final rule.

A spokesperson for the Education Department said the department does not comment on pending litigation but noted that “as a condition of receiving federal funds, all federally-funded schools are obligated to comply with these final regulations.” They added that the department looks forward “to working with school communities all across the country to ensure the Title IX guarantee of nondiscrimination in school is every student’s experience.”

The department has yet to finalize a separate rule that establishes new criteria for transgender athletes. So far, 24 states have passed laws that ban transgender students from partaking in sports that align with their gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project.