More than half of states sue to block Biden Title IX rule protecting LGBTQ+ students

More than half of states, all with Republican attorneys general, have filed suit to block a recent final rule from the U.S. Department of Education that seeks to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination. (Credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Twenty-six Republican Party-led states have sued the Biden administration over changes to Title IX that aim to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in schools.

Less than a month after the U.S. Department of Education released its final rule protecting against discrimination “on the basis of sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics,” a wave of Republican attorneys general rushed to challenge the measure.

The revised rule, which goes into effect on August 1, requires schools to “take prompt and effective action when notified of conduct that could reasonably constitute sex discrimination in their educational programs or activities.”

The lawsuits come from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

All attorneys general in the 26 states pushing the final rule are part of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Several advocacy groups and school boards have also joined the states’ legal actions. The lawsuits contain similar language and arguments, strongly opposing the final rule. They say the new regulations raise First Amendment concerns and accuse the rule of violating the Administrative Procedure Act.

LGBTQ+ advocates say the revised rule provides students with necessary protections and is consistent with existing law.

“Our children’s experiences in school should be about learning, about making friends and growing as young people. LGBTQ+ students deserve the same opportunities,” Sarah Warbelow, vice president of legal at the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said in an emailed statement. “By filing these lawsuits, these attorneys general are attempting to deprive LGBTQ+ students of their rights, illustrating a complete disregard for the humanity of LGBTQ+ students.”

GOP states unite against new regulations

In the latest effort, Alaska, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming sued the Biden administration on Tuesday, accusing the Department of Education of attempting to “politicize our nation’s education system to conform to the Biden administration’s radical ideological views and her allies. ”

The lawsuit claims that under the updated regulations, teachers, coaches and administrators “would be required to recognize, affirm and validate students’ ‘gender identities’ regardless of speakers’ own religious beliefs on the matter, in violation of the First Amendment.”

In another lawsuit, a group of Southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina – sued the government in federal court in Alabama over the new regulations.

Alabama’s Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall said that since taking office, President Joe Biden has “blatantly tried to use federal funding to force radical gender ideology on states that reject it at the ballot box.”

“Now our schoolchildren are being targeted. The threat is that if Alabama’s public schools and colleges do not adapt, the federal government will take away our funding,” Marshall said in a news release.

The lawsuit also drew praise from Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who said, “Biden is abusing his constitutional authority to push an ideological agenda that harms women and girls and is contrary to the truth.” He added that the Sunshine stands will “not comply” and instead “fight back against Biden’s harmful agenda.”

Individual states are suing the government

Meanwhile, some states have chosen to file individual lawsuits against the government.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration late last month in federal court in Amarillo. Paxton filed an amended complaint earlier this week, adding two new plaintiffs.

In an April 29 press release, Paxton said the Lone Star State “will not allow Joe Biden to rewrite Title IX on a whim, destroying legal protections for women in furtherance of his radical obsession with gender ideology.”

Oklahoma’s Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in federal court in Oklahoma earlier this month. The state education department has also filed a separate suit against the Biden administration.

A mix of states

In late April, Republican attorneys general in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in federal court in Kentucky.

The states argued that the U.S. Department of Education “has used its power to turn a law intended to equalize opportunity for both sexes into a much broader regime of its own making.”

Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana also filed suit against the Biden administration in late April, echoing language used in the other related lawsuits. Seventeen local school boards in Louisiana also joined the states.

Earlier this month, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota also filed a class-action legal challenge to the final rule.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the department does not comment on pending litigation, but noted that “all federally funded schools are required to comply with these final regulations as a condition of receiving federal funds.” They added that the department looks forward “to working with school communities across the country to ensure that the Title IX guarantee of nondiscrimination in school is every student’s experience.”

The department has yet to adopt a separate rule establishing new criteria for transgender athletes. So far, 24 states have passed laws banning transgender students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

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