The Biden administration is now moving to undo damaging guidance from the Trump administration that asserted that federal protections against discrimination on the basis of sex did not protect LGBTQ students from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now, the Education Department — led by Biden appointee Miguel Cardona — has stated that its updated interpretation is that protections against sex-based discrimination do, in fact, protect LGBTQ students from mistreatment.
The Biden team tied its conclusion to a recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which stated that federal prohibitions on sex-based discrimination in workplaces also protected workers against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As Cardona put it:
‘We just want to double down on our expectations. Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity… This is really clarity around how we interpret [the law]. We need to make sure we are supporting all students in our schools.’
Recently, many Republicans have begun to feverishly advocate against transgender student athletes, claiming that such individuals’ presence within sporting competitions is in some way systematically unfair — as though there aren’t already plenty of differences between cisgender individuals who may be competing. As in other areas of Republican policy-making, the push against allowing transgender student athletes to participate in sporting events in line with their gender identity is rooted in ignorance and bigotry. Nevertheless, Republicans have used their authority to repeatedly push outright bans on the participation of transgender athletes in student sports in accordance with their identity.
Now, Cardona has indicated that the Education Department is in the process of formulating official policies for protecting transgender students. The department has previously accepted input from individuals like students and teachers regarding, as authorities put it at the time, “the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” and Cardona said this week that Education Department officials are “in the process now of synthesizing that information as we go to the next steps of actually developing our rules.” As for a time when those rules could be expected, Cardona said that the department is “going to move as quickly as possible on it.”