Jun 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Education Department extends Title IX protections to transgender students

Picture of Miguel Cardona

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Education on Wednesday announced that protections outlined under Title IX extend to gay and transgender students, a departure from the Trump administration's interpretation of the federal civil rights law.

Why it matters: The decision comes in light of the Supreme Court's ruling last year affirming that gay and transgender people are protected under the Civil Rights Act. It comes during a Biden administration review of Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

What they're saying: "Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told the New York Times.

  • "We need to make sure we are supporting all students in our schools," he added.

The big picture: President Biden signed an executive order in March directing the Education Department to review Title IX and revise several controversial provisions put in place by the Trump administration, as part of a broader effort to reverse such laws throughout the federal agencies.

  • The new stance on the law is the opposite of the Trump administration's position, which held that the law "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity," an Education Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in 2018.
  • The Trump administration issued a memo during its last weeks that stated LGBTQ students were not covered by Title IX.

The department’s Office of Civil Rights will now open investigations into allegations of people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Between the lines: It is unclear how the new interpretation will impact legislative efforts by Republicans aimed at transgender youth, including legislation that prohibits transgender girls from competing on sports teams that do not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

What to watch: Cardona, who is in the process of reviewing the law, told the Times, "We are in the process now of synthesizing that information as we go to the next steps of actually developing our rules."

  • He did not specify when the review process would end, but added that the department is "going to move as quickly as possible."
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