Judge blocks Biden’s transgender student protections in 6 more states

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked a Biden administration rule expanding federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ students.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves halts enforcement of changes to Title IX — the federal civil rights law preventing sex discrimination in schools and education programs that receive government funding — that were finalized in April by the Education Department in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The new rule, which covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time, had been set to take effect later this summer.

Reeves, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, wrote in his ruling that the plaintiffs — the six GOP-led states, an association of Christian educators and a 15-year-old girl — will “suffer immediate and irreparable harm” if the rule is allowed to take effect.

“As [the plaintiffs] correctly argue, the new rule contravenes the plain text of Title IX by redefining ‘sex’ to include gender identity, violates government employees’ First Amendment rights, and is the result of arbitrary and capricious rulemaking,” Reeves wrote.

His ruling comes days after another federal judge temporarily blocked the administration’s rule from taking effect in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana, after the states sued the Biden administration in April. Lawsuits challenging the rule in more than a dozen other Republican-controlled states are still pending.

Although Title IX is a federal law, each administration takes a different approach to enforcing its regulations, which schools are then required to follow as a condition of receiving funding from the government.

The Biden administration’s changes to Title IX are slated to take effect nationwide on Aug. 1, except in states where they have been blocked. Disapproval resolutions filed this month by House and Senate Republicans aim to strike down the rule before its enforcement date.

Monday’s ruling in Kentucky was celebrated by the state’s Republican Attorney General Russell Coleman, who said the challenge brought against the new rule is part of a larger effort “to protect our women and girls from harm.”

“We’re grateful for the court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the Biden Administration’s attempts to rip away protections to advance its political agenda,” Coleman said in a statement.

Republicans have largely balked at the Biden administration’s Title IX changes, which they say undermine federal nondiscrimination protections for students who are not transgender. The new rule, they argue, also incorrectly applies the reasoning of a 2020 Supreme Court decision that protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to Title IX.

Conservative leaders claim the latest update to how Title IX is enforced will allow transgender women and girls to compete on female school sports teams, invalidating laws passed in 24 GOP-led states that prohibit transgender student-athletes from competing in accordance with their gender identity. Enforcement of four of those laws is already blocked by federal court orders.

The Education Department has yet to finalize a separate rule governing athletics eligibility, however. The proposal unveiled last year would prohibit schools from adopting polices that categorically ban transgender student-athletes from sports teams that match their gender identity.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in June denied reports that the athletics rule is being deliberately delayed because of the presidential election.

In a statement to The Hill, an Education Department spokesperson said the department is reviewing Monday’s ruling in Kentucky and the Thursday ruling in Louisiana preventing the administration’s new rule from taking effect.

“The Department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “The Department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

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