More GOP states are challenging federal rules protecting transgender students

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Seven other Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Tuesday to challenge a new federal regulation that aims to protect the rights of transgender students in the nation’s schools. Republican prosecutors are calling the effort to make protections for transgender students under the 1972 Title IX law unconstitutional.

The lawsuits filed in federal courts in Missouri and Oklahoma are the latest efforts by the Republican Party to halt new regulations aimed at clarifying Title IX, a landmark 1972 sex discrimination law that was originally passed to protect the rights of women and was applied to schools and colleges that receive federal money. The rules provide that Title IX also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota joined as plaintiffs in the Missouri lawsuit.

The cases come as many Republicans seek to restrict the rights of transgender youth, including restricting the bathrooms or pronouns they can use at school. Such bans could be invalidated by the new federal regulations. The suing Republican states argue that the new federal rules go beyond the intent of Title IX and that the Biden administration does not have the authority to implement them.

“The Biden administration’s interpretation is completely inconsistent with the statute and the way it has been interpreted for decades,” Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said at a news conference with Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

Federal regulations apply to all schools that receive federal funding. The latest filings bring the number of GOP states challenging the new rules to at least 21. Officials in several states, including Arkansas, have said they do not plan to comply with the regulation.

The U.S. Department of Education said it does not comment on pending litigation.

An Arkansas high school athlete, Amelia Ford, also joined the Missouri cause, saying she does not believe transgender women should be allowed to compete on women’s sports teams.

The Biden administration’s new rules broadly protect against discrimination based on sex, but offer no guidance for transgender athletes. Most of the states challenging the regulations have laws limiting which teams transgender athletes can play on.

Lawsuits have also been filed in federal courts in Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Kentucky. The many challenges give the states that sue a greater chance that one of the cases will put the rule on hold nationally.