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DOE extends Title IX protections to LGBTQ+ students

The new guidance prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, reversing Trump-era restrictions on transgender students' rights

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"Embrace your LGBTQ+ identity." Illustration published on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

The Department of Education updated its Title IX interpretation on Wednesday to include protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The updated guidance comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order in March requiring the DOE to review Title IX policies created under former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former President Donald Trump.

Guidelines under the Trump administration said the inclusion of transgender athletes was not protected by Title IX.

The DOE, led by new Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, cites the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County as precedent for the protection of students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a 2020 decision on the Bostock v. Clayton County case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers firing employees on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and national origin.

A Trump-era Department of Education memorandum argued the Bostock ruling did not extend to Title IX or the department’s enforcement of the statute. “The Court decided the case narrowly, specifically refusing to extend its holding to Title IX and other differently drafted statutes,” the memorandum read. “The Department does not have the authority to enforce Title VII.” 

In the Notice of Interpretation released by the DOE on Wednesday, the Department argued the Bostock ruling could be applied to Title IX.

“Courts rely on interpretations of Title VII to inform interpretations of Title IX,” the letter read.

Under the new interpretation, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights will be allowed to enforce Title IX to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity at institutions that receive federal funding.

RELATED READING: DOE finds ASU in violation of Clery Act

In a statement, a University spokesperson said ASU has prohibited and continues to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“ASU remains committed to providing an environment free of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation for the entire university community, including all students, faculty members, staff employees, and guests,” the statement read.

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Reagan PriestManaging Editor

Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.

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