Respect Equality

What’s next for Title IX?

The Biden administration on Thursday – the 50th anniversary of Title IX – announced a series of proposed updates to the landmark civil rights law. Not everyone believes them to be fair.
tennis ball and racket
The Associated Press/Christophe Ena

Story at a glance

  • The Education Department Thursday published a number of proposed updates to Title IX on the landmark civil rights law’s 50th anniversary, including expanded protections for transgender students.

  • The department did not say how the new changes will impact Title IX’s application to athletics.

  • LGBTQ+ advocates praised the administration’s proposal, while conservatives mostly rejected it, doubling down on an argument that transgender women are a threat to women’s sports.

The Biden administration on Thursday announced its intent to alter protections guaranteed under Title IX, including plans to expand those protections to young transgender Americans. 

The proposal, made on the 50th anniversary of the landmark civil rights law that prevents sex-based discrimination, comes amid an intensifying national debate over whether transgender women and girls, specifically, should be permitted to compete against cisgender women and girls in athletics.

Under the proposed changes, Title IX, which currently only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, would be expanded to “p​​rotect LGBTQI+ students from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics,” the Education Department said Thursday.

The department added that it will “engage in a separate rulemaking to address Title IX’s application to athletics.” 

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Public comment on the changes will be open for 60 days once the proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups on Thursday immediately celebrated the administration’s proposal, which they said had been long overdue.

“The proposed rule change gets at the heart of what Title IX is supposed to do – protect students from sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination while on campus,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, said Thursday.

Warbelow said the changes would be critical for LGBTQ+ women and girls, who face elevated rates of discrimination, and help further safeguard transgender students – even those who do not participate in school sports.

“It is especially important, given the attacks on transgender youth across the country,” she said, referencing at least 10 transgender athlete bans that have taken effect this year, as well as a number of state laws that restrict access to gender-affirming health care for minors.

Other measures introduced this year would affect LGBTQ+ youth more broadly. In Florida, a law set to take effect next month will prevent public school educators from teaching their students about sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ+ rights groups have called the measure “blatantly unconstitutional,” in part because it violates Title IX.

In a statement, Amit Paley, the president and chief executive of the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project, said the Education Department’s proposal is an “important step forward” – particularly for transgender and nonbinary students – but called on the federal government to do more to protect LGBTQ+ youth. Paley on Thursday advocated for the passage of the Equality Act, which has been stalled in the Senate for more than a year.

Paul D. Castillo, a senior counsel and student’s rights strategist at Lambda Legal, said Thursday that the proposed Title IX update would help shield LGBTQ+ students from “extremist politicians,” echoing an oft-made argument that conservative lawmakers have taken up LGBTQ+ issues as a way to ignite their base.

“These new rules will provide a stronger, clearer measure of recourse and better ensure that victims of unlawful discrimination can avail themselves of the longstanding protections under Title IX,” he said.

The Biden administration’s proposed Title IX changes would also bolster protections for student survivors by adding a requirement that schools respond to all claims of sexual or gender violence, regardless of where it occurs. Students who report instances of discrimination would also be better protected from retaliation.

But not everyone is in agreement that Title IX should be updated, at least not in the way the Biden administration has proposed.

“The Biden administration’s unabashed embrace of bomb-throwing activism has clearly been taken to heart at the Department of Education,” Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who has been the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor since 2019, said Thursday in a statement.

“Today’s proposed Title IX regulations are nothing more than a conduit for the Left’s woke agenda that will demolish due process rights and the safety of young women and girls across the country, with promised regulations still to come to undermine women’s access to athletic opportunities,” she said, referencing the administration’s support for transgender athletes.

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who helped update Title IX under the Trump administration, earlier this month called the administration’s rumored update to Title IX “a bridge too far.”

“I do think some of these developments are very concerning,” she said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday said the proposed update represented a ploy by “radical liberals and the corporate media” to undermine Title IX and erase women from sports.

Also on Thursday, a gathering of protesters convened in Washington to rally against transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. Speakers included former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) and a number of former collegiate athletes who said they had been stripped of athletic opportunities because of transgender women.