LGBTQ Legal Issues

Republican-led states sue Biden administration over protections for transgender students and workers

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LGBTQ worker protection concept

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Twenty Republican-led states sued the Biden administration Monday claiming that protections for transgender people, including access to bathrooms and locker rooms, are invalid under federal law.

Tennessee, Alaska, Arizona, Ohio and Kentucky are among the coalition of states that filed the lawsuit in Tennessee federal court challenging the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s interpretations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery, whose state is leading the coalition, said the two agencies do not have the authority to enforce the changes, and the agencies are misconstruing federal anti-discrimination laws.

In January, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that said everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to use bathrooms, locker rooms and participate in school sports. The two agencies then made changes to provide greater protections for transgender workers and students.

Biden’s order relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which bars employers from firing workers based on sexual identity or orientation.

But Slatery said the Supreme Court had noted in Bostock that it was not deciding issues related to transgender people’s access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports.

“All of this, together with the threat of withholding educational funding in the midst of a pandemic, warrants this lawsuit,” Slatery said in a statement.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal request for comment Tuesday. When it did respond, DOJ spokeswoman Danielle Blevins declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The DOE has said it could investigate a school if transgender students are denied the opportunity to join a sports team, do not have access to restrooms, or are not referred to by their preferred pronouns, according to the complaint. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated transgender workers should have access to showers, locker rooms and restrooms, the lawsuit adds.

Updated Sept. 1 at 4:04 to include graf about the DOJ spokeswoman.