LGBTQ Legal Issues

DOJ says it can defend religious exemption that allows LGBTQ discrimination in education

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The U.S. Department of Justice is opposing an attempt by Christian colleges to intervene in a lawsuit by asserting that it can defend a religious exemption that allows the schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

The DOJ made the statement in a June 8 court filing, the Washington Post reports.

The filing points out that the government has a duty to defend federal statutes and regulations.

The plaintiffs are dozens of former and current LGBTQ students at religious colleges and universities. Their suit challenges a religious exemption as applied to sexual- and gender-minority students attending private religious colleges and universities that receive federal funding. The statutory exemption is part of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal money.

The DOJ filing acknowledges that the U.S. Department of Education is conducting a comprehensive review of regulations implementing Title IX.

“But at this stage of the litigation, it is premature to conclude that the federal defendants would neglect to raise, or be ‘ill-equipped’ to develop, effective arguments in support of the religious exemption,” the legal filing said.

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project filed the lawsuit in March on behalf of the LGBTQ student plaintiffs.

“What this means is that the government is now aligning itself with anti-LGBTQ hate in order to vigorously defend an exemption that everyone knows causes severe harm to LGBTQ students using taxpayer money,” said Paul Carlos Southwick, the director of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, in an interview with the Washington Post.

The case is Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education.

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