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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."

Go deeper

Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Montinique Monroe and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Education Department is investigating Texas' ban on mask mandates and its possible violation of disability rights.

Why it matters: Texas is one of several states under investigation for mask mandate bans that have impacted schools across the U.S.

Pence says he hopes Supreme Court will overturn abortion rights

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaking in Budapest on Sept. 23. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he's hopeful the majority-conservative Supreme Court secured during the Trump administration will overturn abortion rights in the United States, according to AP.

Why it matters: Pence made the comments at a biennial forum held in Budapest by conservative leaders concerned about changes in demographics, family values, fertility rates and illegal immigration into Western countries.

50 mins ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.