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LGBTQ+ advocates rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on October 8, 2019. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

'Huge Day for Trans Youth' as Biden Administration Reverses Trump-Era Title IX Guidance

"All students—including LGBTQ+ students—deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Brett Wilkins

In a move welcomed by civil rights advocates amid a wave of state-level legislative attacks on transgender people, the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday said that Title IX bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, reversing guidance issued during the Trump administration's four-year assault on LGBTQ+ rights.

"Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity."
—U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona

The new guidance from the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights—which had been anticipated–changes how the agency will interpret and enforce Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.

"The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination—and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections," U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement announcing the shift.

Cardona was referring to Bostock v. Clayton County, the landmark June 2020 high court ruling declaring workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ people unconstitutional.

"I'm proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination," Cardona added. "Today, the department makes clear that all students—including LGBTQ+ students—deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination."

On Tuesday, Cardona told the New York Times that "we just want to double down on our expectations—students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity."

The Education Department's move is a complete reversal from the Trump administration, which asserted that gender identity was not protected under Title IX.

"This is a day that transgender kids and their families have been waiting for."
—Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, NCTE

The new guidance follows a series of policies and actions by the Biden administration to reverse Trump-era rollbacks and expand sexual minorities' rights, starting with a Day One executive order aimed at combating and preventing anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

This was followed by a February announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it would enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; a March memo (pdf) from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division asserting that Title IX applies to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination; and the May reversal of the Trump administration's elimination of nondiscrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary people in federally funded healthcare services.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates cheered Wednesday's guidance.

"This is a day that transgender kids and their families have been waiting for," Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), said in a statement.

"Across the country, politicians have targeted transgender youth for discrimination at school. Now those same kids know that the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Education see them for who they really are and will defend their right to fully participate in school," Heng-Lehtinen added. "This is a huge day for trans youth and the people who love them."

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