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Republican States Sue to Let Schools Block LGBTQ Children From Getting Meals

The lawsuit is part of the right’s escalating attacks on LGBTQ peoples’ right to exist in the U.S.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on November 1, 2021.

In the latest installment of Republicans’ cultural and legal war against LGBTQ adults and children, the vast majority of the U.S.’s Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit last week suing the Biden administration over its Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule aimed at preventing LGBTQ children from being discriminated against in school meal programs.

Twenty-two Republican attorneys general, including from states with explicitly far-right GOP leadership like Texas, are suing over a rule announced by the USDA earlier this year that prohibits schools from receiving federal meal funding if they have meal programs that discriminate against LGBTQ children. About 95 percent of public schools receive federal funding for meals. The rule is based off of anti-discrimination rules laid out in Title IX.

Their argument — that the USDA doesn’t have the authority to make such anti-discrimination rules — is similar to what a Tennessee judge found of federal protections for LGBTQ people in school and the workplace last month.

However, the underlying reason that the attorneys general are bringing the lawsuit is to advance their mission of subjugating and punishing LGBTQ children and adults for existing. Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita, one of the leaders of the lawsuit, said in a loaded statement announcing the lawsuit that “the Biden administration is dead-set on imposing an extreme left-wing agenda” and added that the anti-discrimination rule is a form of left-wing authoritarianism.

Of course, the real threat of authoritarianism in the U.S. is coming from the right, which is coordinating to rig elections for the GOP and has spent the last years enshrining cruel anti-LGBTQ ideologies into their official party platforms and passing laws establishing legal bases to discriminate against trans youth, unleashing violence against the LGBTQ community.

Advocates for the National School Lunch program, which helps to feed tens of millions of children each year, have long held that the program is necessary to reduce poverty and improve health outcomes for children who may not be able to access meals otherwise. The USDA anti-discrimination rule was announced as part of a Biden administration initiative to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ children in schools.

Republicans have spent decades trying to make cuts to school meals; earlier this year, thanks in part to Republican leaders in Congress, legislators failed to extend a universal school lunch program that has fed an estimated 10 million children through the pandemic.

The party, which has been lurching further and further into right-wing extremism, has launched a deluge of escalating attacks against LGBTQ people in recent years. Earlier this year, after Republican legislators banned trans children from participating in school sports and hurled hateful and false child abuse allegations against parents of LGBTQ children, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his administration was moving to ban trans children and Medicaid recipients from receiving gender affirming care — care that evidence shows can often be life-saving.

In another recent lawsuit, a prominent Texas Republican who had a major hand in crafting the state’s restrictive abortion ban argued that allowing people to access HIV medications for free under the Affordable Care Act was a violation of his Christian clients’ rights to maintain their homophobia.

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