The Department of Education announced this week that it would interpret Title IX protections for across the U.S. to include protections for LGBTQ students, including transgender students that are being targeted by conservative legislation in numerous states.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona made the announcement, which reverses a Trump administration policy, on Wednesday.
“Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” Cardona said.
The department announced the charges due to a ruling from the Supreme Court last year, which found that similar protections outlined in the Civil Rights Act should be applied to LGBTQ workers.
“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,” Cardona said in a statement.
The policy change “is really clarity around how we interpret it,” Cardona elaborated. “We need to make sure we are supporting all students in our schools.”
The change in policy will likely set up clashes between the federal government and states that have passed or are proposing anti-LGBTQ laws.
Thirty-three states have seen the introduction of more than 100 pieces of legislation this year alone regarding the restriction of trans students’ rights. At least 58 of those bills are related to youth sports bans or restrictions on which locker rooms or restrooms transgender students can use, including laws that require them to use facilities or join sports teams that correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. Three governors have already signed bills into law banning trans athletes from competing in events based on their gender identities.
The decision to view Title IX rules as protecting transgender students’ rights in schools across the country was lauded by many pro-LGBTQ activists and organizations, who noted that schools with gender-affirming programs provide “life-saving” services to students who are excluded in many areas of their lives. However, a number of other groups have also criticized the Biden administration for its shortcomings in regard to trans rights.
Earlier this month, for example, the Department of Justice announced that it would “vigorously” defend religious colleges and universities accused of discriminating against members of the LGBTQ community. The department revised its wording after many groups spoke out against it.
The organization Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement also took issue with a tweet from President Joe Biden himself, in which he said “transgender rights are human rights.” That group noted that transgender people were subjected to violence from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and other agencies in the federal government.
“Actions speak louder than words,” the group wrote in a tweet responding to Biden’s. “Believing transgender rights are human rights means taking action to protect transgender people from gender based violence they face inside detention centers while in ICE custody.”