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Title IX

Dismantling protections for gay students

House Speaker Johnson, Betsy DeVos lead attack on Title IX rule that protects LGBTQ+ kids

WASHINGTON — Prominent members of the GOP on Wednesday strongly criticized the Biden administration’s final rule for Title IX, including U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

As the fate of a key Biden administration effort to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in schools hangs in the balance, Republicans at the state and federal levels are ramping up their attempts to stop the measure from taking effect.

“As you know, the Department of Education … has gone about its effort to rewrite Title IX, and it’s having a very devastating effect. It’s something that is a great alarm to all of us,” Johnson said during a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol on “protecting Title IX and women’s sports” to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of its adoption.

“There’s much more to do, and Congress is not just sitting around,” Johnson added, noting that the House would vote soon on legislation to reverse the final rule.

The speaker hails from Louisiana, one of 10 states that has so far temporarily blocked the administration’s final rule for Title IX from taking effect on Aug. 1.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana issued a temporary injunction barring the final regulation from taking effect in the state, plus in Idaho, Mississippi and Montana.

Separately, Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky also temporarily blocked the final rule in the Bluegrass State, as well as in Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it is appealing both of these rulings, saying the agency has “asked the trial courts to allow the bulk of the final rule to take effect in these states as scheduled, on August 1, while the appeals are pending.”

Republican attorneys general from 26 states have quickly scrambled to challenge the Biden administration’s final rule, with states banding together against the new regulation.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson joined a lawsuit with attorneys general from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Other states’ attorneys general, including Texas and Oklahoma, have sued the administration individually.

Rule issued in April

In April, the U.S. Department of Education released its final rule for Title IX, which “protects against discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.”

Part of the final rule also “promotes accountability by requiring schools to take prompt and effective action to end any sex discrimination in their education programs or activities, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects,” per the department.

The updated regulations would roll back controversial changes to Title IX that DeVos oversaw while she was education secretary during the Trump administration and were a major part of her legacy. Advocacy groups fought for years against the Trump administration rule.

“It is time to return to the original intent of Title IX and have common sense prevail again,” said DeVos, who is also the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, during the panel discussion.

Wednesday’s panel also featured Riley Gaines, a former NCAA swimmer, and Heather Higgins, chairwoman of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum.

Gaines, who competed for the University of Kentucky, is a leading voice in opposing transgender athletes’ participation in sports that align with their gender identity.

House vote expected

A measure to block the rule from taking effect is set for a full House vote after the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved legislation earlier in June that would reverse the rule under the Congressional Review Act. This is a procedural tool Congress can use to overturn certain actions from federal agencies.

Rep. Mary Miller, an Illinois Republican and the committee’s vice chair, introduced the measure, which already has over 70 GOP cosponsors.

Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said Miller’s Congressional Review Act resolution would “roll back these new rules put out by the Biden administration that negate most of the work that was done under (Education) Secretary DeVos, which was extraordinarily thoughtful and well done.”

Republicans’ efforts have also ramped up in the Senate, where U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, introduced legislation earlier in June seeking to block the final rule via the same procedural tool. Over 30 of Hyde-Smith’s GOP colleagues are cosponsors.

Regardless of whether attempts to block the measure are successful in the House and Democratic-controlled Senate, President Joe Biden is likely to issue a veto.

LGBTQ+ advocacy group weighs in

“Sadly, it’s no surprise that Speaker Johnson and MAGA Republicans are once again attacking transgender kids,” David Stacy, vice president of government affairs for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said in an emailed statement to States Newsroom.

Stacy said that while DeVos was Education secretary under Trump, she “rolled back protections for LGBTQ+ students and did nothing to ensure they could be safe from bullying, harassment and discrimination in school.”

“Every student deserves to be safe and respected in school, something Johnson and DeVos clearly don’t care about at all. All they have to offer the American people are cruel and cynical political attacks that are a desperate attempt to salvage their dysfunctional House majority,” Stacy added.

Department of Education defends rule

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the agency “crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to give complete effect to the Title IX statutory guarantee that no person experiences sex discrimination in federally-funded education,” echoing an earlier statement.

The spokesperson reiterated that all schools receiving federal funding are obligated to comply with the final rule as a condition of obtaining those funds.

The department has not yet finalized a separate rule that establishes new criteria for transgender athletes.


Shauneen Miranda is a reporter for States Newsroom’s Washington bureau. An alumna of the University of Maryland, she previously covered breaking news for Axios.

SC Daily Gazette is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.