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Federal judge tosses Biden administration’s Title IX guidance aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students

The judge ruled the Department of Education unlawfully issued guidance saying Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) — A federal judge in Texas ruled Tuesday that the Biden administration's interpretation of Title IX as prohibiting discrimination in education based on sexual orientation and gender identity is unlawful.

Title IX, enacted in 1972, is the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. In June 2021, the Department of Education issued a notice of interpretation extending Title IX's protections. The notice relied upon the Supreme Court's 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that Title VII's sex discrimination provision protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2023, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Department of Education over the new Title IX guidance, arguing it went against the plain text of Title IX, was inconsistent with the Bostock ruling, and was issued without the required opportunity for notice and comment.

"Texas is challenging this blatant attempt to misuse federal regulatory power to force K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in our state to accept and implement 'transgender' ideology — in violation of state law — by misusing the Title IX statute to threaten the withholding of federal education funds," the attorney general said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "The administration’s unlawful guidance could put at risk over $6 billion in federal funding that supports Texas K-12 and higher education institutions."

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor sided with Paxton, concluding the Department of Education exceeded its authority when issuing the guidance and that the guidance itself went against the law.

O'Connor noted the case required balancing rights in school classrooms, bathrooms locker rooms and other facilities while ensuring that no student was marginalized. But he said those policy choices should be made by "the appropriate elected officials" and not the court.

"Rather than promote the equal opportunity, dignity, and respect that Title IX demands for both biological sexes, Defendants’ Guidance Documents do the opposite in an effort to advance an agenda wholly divorced from the text, structure, and contemporary context of Title IX," O'Connor wrote in his 112-page ruling. "Not to mention, recipients of Title IX funding—including Texas schools—will face an impossible choice: revise policies in compliance with the Guidance Documents but in contravention of state law or face the loss of substantial funding."

"Thus, to allow Defendants’ unlawful action to stand would be to functionally rewrite Title IX in a way that shockingly transforms American education and usurps a major question from Congress. That is not how our democratic system functions," the George W. Bush appointee added.

O’Connor declared the department's guidance documents unlawful and enjoined their enforcement in the state of Texas.

"Joe Biden’s unlawful effort to weaponize Title IX for his extremist agenda has been stopped in its tracks,” Paxton said in a press release Tuesday. “Threatening to withhold education funding by forcing states to accept ‘transgender’ policies that put women in danger was plainly illegal. Texas has prevailed on behalf of the entire Nation.”

From borders and vaccines to abortion and more, Paxton has led several legal charges against the Biden administration, and the attorney general Paxton has pushed especially hard against transgender rights.

Experts have called out Paxton’s false claims about transgender people and gender-affirming care for many years. Despite ongoing legal challenges surrounding the state’s ban on gender-affirming care, which the Texas Supreme Court is set to rule on soon, Paxton has used the law to go after at least two out-of-state hospitals, one in Washington and one in Georgia, to gather information on Texas patients they have treated.

On Monday, Texas joined Montana in suing the Department of Health and Human Services over protections for gender-affirming care.

Categories / Courts, Education, Politics

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