Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 17:45 pm (CNA).
The Biden administration proposed expanding the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a gender equality law that applies to thousands of schools across the U.S.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Today, its protections impact everything from women’s participation in sports to sexual harassment at schools.
Its text reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The Department of Education intends to expand discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” it announced Thursday.
These changes, the Washington Post reported, would, among other things, permit transgender students “to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, using their correct pronouns and addressing bullying based on their gender identity.”
Title IX includes exceptions, including a religious exemption for educational institutions “controlled by a religious organization” if the application is inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.
Before becoming law, the proposed changes must undergo a public comment process. After it is published in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted the following 60 days via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.
CNA reached out to several Catholic colleges and universities for comment Thursday. One responded by publication time saying that it will review the changes and will submit comments if necessary.
Title IX applies to approximately 17,600 local school districts and over 5,000 postsecondary institutions, charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums, according to the department. It also applies to vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies.
Regarding athletics, the department announced Thursday that it will address Title IX’s application to athletics at a later time. The announcement came the same day that female athletes from across the country expressed concern in Washington, D.C., about competing against transgender athletes.
For the 49th anniversary of Title IX, in 2021, the Biden administration issued a “notice of interpretation” that it would enforce Title IX protections against sex discrimination in education to also protect sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed changes that came Thursday would make this federal law.
The Education Department’s fact sheet clarifies that the proposed regulations “would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations.”
The changes also include revisions regarding how schools and higher education institutions address and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment — and they expand the definition of sex-based harassment.
The changes also affect pregnant and parenting students.
“The proposed regulations would update existing protections for students, applicants, and employees against discrimination because of pregnancy or related conditions,” the fact sheet reads. “The proposed regulations would strengthen requirements that schools provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students, reasonable break time for pregnant employees, and lactation space.”
The department identifies “key issue areas” where Title IX applies: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education, and employment.