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Conservative States Say They Won’t Comply With Rule Against Trans Discrimination

Biden “needs to ensure that states follow through in compliance with the law,” said an LGBTQ advocate.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, then-nominee for governor of Arkansas, speaks during the America First Agenda Summit, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on July 26, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Thursday that the state would not comply with a federal regulation designed to protect the rights of transgender students in the country’s schools.

On Thursday, Sanders issued an executive order affirming that Arkansas schools will continue to ban transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity and prohibit teachers from using the correct pronouns of transgender students if the students’ parents do not give written permission. “My message to Joe Biden and the federal government is we will not comply,” Sanders said at a news conference.

Arkansas is refusing to comply with rules released in April by the Biden administration forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Today’s rule will be life-changing for so many LGBTQ+ youth and help ensure LGBTQ+ students can receive the same educational experience as their peers: going to dances, safely using the restroom, and writing stories that tell the truth about their own lives,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement on the new rules. “School administrators should take note and immediately act to implement anti-bias and anti-bullying and harassment programs that ensure misgendering stops, that cruelty against LGBTQ+ students ends and that every student has access to an education free of discrimination.”

This regulation formalizes a 2021 guidance from the Education Department that instructed schools to interpret federal law to safeguard LGBTQ students from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and marks the reversal of a Trump administration policy that rescinded Obama-era guidance which directed schools to permit transgender students to use facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

“This updated rule is a reminder of what Title IX has been designed to accomplish for more than fifty years: ensure students are safe from abuse, harassment, and discrimination while they pursue their education,” Robinson said.

Sanders’ directive mirrors actions taken by numerous other states — including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, and Nebraska — that have instructed schools not to comply with the rule. Many of these states have also filed federal lawsuits challenging the rule. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has sued the Biden administration to block the rule and Republican attorneys general in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho are challenging the rule in a separate lawsuit. The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative group, has filed an additional lawsuit over the rule.

According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 280,300 transgender youth live in states where laws have been enacted or proposed to restrict transgender youth’s access to gender-affirming medical care, participation in sports, restroom and other sex-segregated facilities use, or recognition of gender identity through pronoun use. Debates surrounding anti-transgender bills negatively affect the mental health of 86 percent of trans youth, according to a 2023 survey by The Trevor Project.

“This rule is a win for the transgender community and is a huge step forward for protecting trans youth,” Allison Chapman, a LGBTQ legislative researcher, told Truthout. “The Biden administration needs to ensure that states follow through in compliance with the law.”