Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes Pro-Equality Title IX Rule, Following Years of Advocacy by HRC and Partners, to Protect LGBTQ+ Students, Combat Sexual Assault and Harassment

by Cullen Peele

HRC President Kelley Robinson says: “Today’s rule will be life-changing for so many LGBTQ+ youth and help ensure LGBTQ+ students can receive the same educational experience as their peers: going to dances, safely using the restroom, and writing stories that tell the truth about their own lives”

HRC continues its call for Title IX rules that protect transgender student-athletes from discrimination and ensure protections in healthcare broadly, including for transgender veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced it has finalized a Title IX rule that clarifies the scope of nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity throughout educational activities and programs. The new rule also reverses Trump-era changes to Title IX that limited federally funded educational institutions’ obligation to address sexual harassment and assault and clarifies protections for pregnant and parenting students. Additionally, in the face of an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in state legislatures and elsewhere across the country, the Human Rights Campaign and other partners continue to call for urgently needed Title IX rule protections from discrimination for transgender student-athletes and other rules for access to healthcare broadly, including for transgender veterans.

Today’s rule will be life-changing for so many LGBTQ+ youth and help ensure LGBTQ+ students can receive the same educational experience as their peers: going to dances, safely using the restroom, and writing stories that tell the truth about their own lives. School administrators should take note and immediately act to implement anti-bias and anti-bullying and harassment programs that ensure misgendering stops, that cruelty against LGBTQ+ students ends and that every student has access to an education free of discrimination. This updated rule is a reminder of what Title IX has been designed to accomplish for more than fifty years: ensure students are safe from abuse, harassment, and discrimination while they pursue their education.

“Even as we celebrate this progress, our work is far from finished. LGBTQ+ Americans, particularly transgender youth, continue to endure ongoing attacks on their rights and their dignity at the state level. We call on the Biden-Harris administration to move swiftly to ensure Title IX protects the rights of transgender athletes to play and be part of a team. There are also critical protections in healthcare broadly, including veterans care, that are overdue. It’s time to get the job done.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson

At a time when far too many LGTBQ+ students can feel unsafe and without support in school halls, this new rule makes it clear to school districts across the country that they have an obligation to protect students from discrimination. In practice, this means students can use the bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, can attend prom and other schools dances with a same-sex date, and can depict LGBTQ+ families in the art they paint and in the stories they write. It also means schools can’t intentionally misgender students, create a hostile environment where LGTBQ+ students are bullied, or retaliate against students who complain of harassment or discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is a comprehensive bias-based bullying prevention program to provide LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive training and tools to educators.

While HRC celebrates today’s new rule, we also reiterate our calls to White House officials to further clarify how they will enforce Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sex when it comes to transgender students participating in school athletics programs. Last year, the administration proposed a separate regulation laying out educational institutions' obligations to ensure equal opportunity for student athletes, without discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity. However, no final rule has yet been announced, and transgender student-athletes continue to be denied opportunities to participate in school athletics programs. Clarity on the scope of federal law is necessary for educational institutions as they navigate court decisions that support the necessity of transgender students to participate and the blanket bans that limit them. This is particularly true in response to the wave of disinformation and misinformation driving discrimination against transgender student athletes in 24 states and numerous school districts across the country.

Numerous federal courts - most recently the Fourth Circuit - have found that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from discrimination in federally-funded educational activities and programs. This includes decisions from federal courts that it is a violation of Title IX to exclude transgender students from restrooms, locker rooms, and sex-separated programs and activities, including athletics, consistent with their gender identity.

Under the Trump administration however, the Department of Education instituted a series of controversial and discriminatory regulatory and guidance changes to the implementation of Title IX, dismantling long-standing protections and opening the door to sex-based discrimination against LGBTQ+ students. In 2017, the Departments of Education and Justice rescinded guidance to schools about their obligations to transgender students and created more hurdles for survivors of sexual assault to seek justice, giving more rights to alleged perpetrators of sexual violence.

In March 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14021 to begin the process of undoing the Trump administration’s harmful actions undermining Title IX and protections for LGBTQ+ students and sexual assault survivors.

Over the years HRC supporters have submitted over 24,482 comments on Title IX protections.

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