Continuing its long-running trend of targeting the president with lawsuits, the Texas AG’s office this week announced it is suing the Biden administration over what it has deemed an “unlawful interpretation of Title IX.” Specifically, the state takes issue with the federal government’s April decision to have schools include transgender students under the scope of Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in schools.
“Under [President Joe] Biden, the Department of Education has issued guidance arbitrarily expanding this category to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’" says a press release. “The guidance risks federal education funding for Texas colleges and universities as well as all Texas K–12 schools receiving any amount of federal funding by unlawfully asserting that these conceptions promoted by the extremist transgender movement are covered by Title IX protections.”
Title IX, established more than 50 years ago, is designed to protect people from discrimination based on sex in educational activities. The recent change of interpretation to Title IX by the Biden administration calls for transgender students to be protected under the rule. This comes after a 2021 decision to place LGBTQ students under Title IX’s umbrella.
Here’s the rub: This federal mandate goes against Texas’ moves in 2021 (for grades K–12) and this year (for colleges) to keep transgender students from participating in sports unless they do so as the gender they were assigned at birth.
The bathroom debate that was all the rage eight years ago gets a shout-out here, as does the latest conservative war against pronouns.
“Examples purported by the Biden Administration to be violations of Title IX include teachers failing to forcibly compel students to use classmates’ so-called ‘preferred pronouns,’ schools’ policies enforcing separate bathroom facilities for biological males and females, and schools’ policies refusing to allow biological males to compete on female sports teams. Under this doctrine, Texas schools would be investigated by the federal government for following Texas law, including Chapter 33 of the Education Code protecting the integrity of school athletics participation on the basis of biological sex.”
“When the Supreme Court ruled that trans people are protected under federal civil rights law, they were right." – Johnathan Gooch, Equality Texas
The state suggests schools that do not comply with the latest Title IX inclusions could lose federal funding. Johnathan Gooch, the communications director for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, suggests that sticking to the laws that are in place is a good starting point for schools in the state.
“When the Supreme Court ruled that trans people are protected under federal civil rights law, they were right," he said. "If we want to be a nation that values and respects every American, we must start by valuing and respecting every student.”
In 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act protected gay, lesbian and transgender citizens from employment discrimination. This lawsuit shares some key similarities to a 2022 lawsuit Paxton filed against the Biden administration regarding federal funding for faith-based adoption agencies. Paxton argued that adoption agencies should be allowed to deny services to LGBTQ parents based on the agencies' opposition to homosexuality and still receive federal funds. Here, interim AG Scott argues that schools should still receive federal funding they would otherwise have coming their way while not honoring the Biden administration's interpretation of Title IX.
“School is supposed to be a safe space for all kids, including trans kids, to learn and grow,” Gooch says. “Using the right pronouns is a basic human right that most cis people take for granted. Our trans students deserve to receive the same respect as their peers, so why is the AG suing to allow teachers to discriminate?”