Biden protections for LGBT students blocked in six more states

Annual LGBTQ+ Capital Pride parade in Washington

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Kentucky on Monday blocked President Joe Biden's administration from implementing new protections for LGBT students from discrimination in schools and colleges based on their gender identities in six Republican-led states that challenged the federal rule as unlawful.

The ruling by Lexington-based U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves brought to 10 the number of states where judges have blocked the U.S. Department of Education rule from taking effect on Aug. 1 as planned. The rule, issued in April, extends to LGBT students protections provided by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 against discrimination "on the basis of sex."

Republican state attorneys general from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia and an association of Christian educators sued to block the rule. Reeves sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the rule violated Title IX.

That civil rights law, the judge found, was intended to level the educational playing field between men and women by barring discrimination "on the basis of sex" under any education program or activity receiving federal funding.

"At bottom, the department would turn Title IX on its head by redefining 'sex' to include 'gender identity,'" wrote Reeves, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush.

The judge said the rule also would run afoul of the free speech and religious freedom rights of educators under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment by requiring them to use pronouns consistent with a student's gender identity rather than biological sex.

The ruling mirrored that of another federal judge in Louisiana who on Thursday blocked the rule from taking effect in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho. Lawsuits by 16 other states challenging the rule remain pending.

Republican state attorneys general welcomed the ruling. They said the rule would require schools to allow transgender students who were born male to use women's restrooms and locker rooms at schools.

An Education Department spokesperson said it stands by the rule, saying it was crafted "to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee."

In issuing the rule, the department said it clarified that the prohibition against sex-based discrimination in Title IX also includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The department cited a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that a ban against sex discrimination in the workplace contained in a different law, Title VII, covered gay and transgender workers.

Courts often rely on interpretations of Title VII when analyzing Title IX, as both laws bar discrimination on the basis of sex.

The Education Department before adopting the rule issued guidance that extended similar protections to LGBT students. A federal appeals court on Friday declined to overturn a ruling that blocked the guidance's enforcement in 20 states.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Will Dunham and Alexia Garamfalvi)