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Biden administration finalizes Title IX rule protecting LGBTQ+ students

The U.S. Department of Education announced a finalized Title IX rule that clarifies the scope of nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity throughout educational activities and programs. The new rule reverses Trump-era changes to Title IX that limited federally funded educational institutions’ obligation to address sexual harassment and assault and clarifies protections for pregnant and parenting students.

In the face of an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in state legislatures and elsewhere across the country, the Human Rights Campaign and other partners call for urgently needed Title IX rule protections from discrimination for transgender student-athletes and other rules for access to healthcare broadly, including for transgender veterans.

“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,” HRC said in a statement. “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.”

Title IX was designed 50 years ago to ensure students are safe from abuse, harassment, and discrimination while they pursue their education.

“Even as we celebrate this progress, our work is far from finished. LGBTQ+ Americans, particularly transgender youth, continue to endure ongoing attacks on their rights and their dignity at the state level,” said Kelley Robinson, HRC president. “We call on the Biden-Harris administration to move swiftly to ensure Title IX protects the rights of transgender athletes to play and be part of a team. There are also critical protections in healthcare broadly, including veterans care, that are overdue. It’s time to get the job done.”

In practice, the rule means that students may use the bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, can attend prom and other school dances with a same-sex date, and can depict LGBTQ+ families in the art they paint and in the stories they write. It also means schools can’t intentionally misgender students, create a hostile environment where LGTBQ+ students are bullied, or retaliate against students who complain of harassment or discrimination.

Last year, the Biden administration proposed a separate regulation laying out educational institutions’ obligations to ensure equal opportunity for student-athletes, without discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity. However, no final rule has yet been announced, and transgender student-athletes continue to be denied opportunities to participate in school athletics programs.

“Clarity on the scope of federal law is necessary for educational institutions as they navigate court decisions that support the necessity of transgender students to participate and the blanket bans that limit them. This is particularly true in response to the wave of disinformation and misinformation driving discrimination against transgender student-athletes in 24 states and numerous school districts across the country,” the HRC statement continued.

Numerous federal courts — most recently the Fourth Circuit — have found that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from discrimination in federally-funded educational activities and programs. This includes decisions from federal courts that it is a violation of Title IX to exclude transgender students from restrooms, locker rooms, and sex-separated programs and activities, including athletics, consistent with their gender identity.

Under the Trump administration, the Department of Education instituted a series of controversial and discriminatory regulatory and guidance changes to the implementation of Title IX, dismantling long-standing protections and opening the door to sex-based discrimination against LGBTQ+ students. In 2017, the Departments of Education and Justice rescinded guidance to schools about their obligations to transgender students and created more hurdles for survivors of sexual assault to seek justice, giving more rights to alleged perpetrators of sexual violence.

In March 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14021 to begin the process of undoing the Trump administration’s harmful actions undermining Title IX and protections for LGBTQ+ students and sexual assault survivors.

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