19 state attorneys general file brief seeking to narrow Title IX exemptions
by Tom Joyce, The Center Square, Aug 29, 2023
Attorneys General from 19 states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief this week with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a class-action case titled Hunter v U.S. Department of Education.
The 19-state coalition, led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, filed the brief based on their interpretation of Title IX, a law that prevents sex discrimination in federally funded schools.
The brief argues that a 2020 rule change regarding how the government interprets Title IX is invalid.
The politicians support students who filed a lawsuit to oppose implementing a religious exemption for parts of the law.
“When Congress enacted Title IX, it included a narrow exemption for schools controlled by religious institutions that have tenets incompatible with Title IX,” a press release from Rosenblum’s office said. “However, during the Trump administration, the Department of Education used administrative rulemaking to vastly expand this narrow religious exemption.”
A new rule that came under the Trump administration made it more difficult for students to tell which schools claim a religious exemption, Rosenblum’s office claimed in the release.
The Department of Education got rid of a requirement that schools tell the Office for Civil Rights in writing that they plan to invoke a religious exemption.
“During the Trump administration, his Department of Education gutted protections for women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other classes of students that had been in place for four decades,” Attorney General Rosenblum said. “Title IX needs to be strengthened, not systematically weakened. Students ought to know before they get to campuses whether their academic institutions will protect their rights or undermine them.”
(Translation: Trannies in girls' lockerroom--if there is a girls' lockerroom.)
The Attorneys General said they want students to know if their school is claiming a religious exemption into such matters before such an incident occurs.
They wrote in the brief that students “…should not have to wait until after they become a victim of discrimination to learn that their school considers itself exempt from Title IX’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation rules. Nor should schools be allowed to wait to assert their exemption from Title IX until after a complainant comes forward with an allegation.”
Attorneys General who signed the brief are from: California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
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Federal Judge Upholds Title IX Religious Exemptions
by Patrick Saccocio, Esq., February 16, 2023
In January, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken of Oregon dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education seeking to end Title IX exemptions for religious educational institutions that receive federal government funding. In 2021, 40 LGBTQ+ students from religious colleges filed a class action lawsuit through the advocacy group The Religious Exemption Accountability Project challenging the provision in Title IX that provides an exemption from sex-based discrimination to religious institutions.
Higher Ed Dive reports that the students provided over 400 exhibits to support their allegations that they were subject to discrimination, which included being denied student housing, being coerced into conversion therapy, and expulsion. The Religious Exemption Accountability Project argued that Title IX’s religious exemption violated their equal protection and First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Although the court did not reject the premise that the students had experienced harm, Aiken nevertheless rejected their legal arguments as “confusing and contradictory.” Aiken’s decision noted that the students’ argument failed to show any discriminatory motive by Congress or that the exemption violated the First Amendment.
The Religious Exemption Accountability Project is considering an appeal of the ruling.
What Is the Title IX Religious Exemption?
Title IX states that its provisions do “not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization.” This exemption extends so far as the institution’s religious tenets conflict with Title IX provisions. These exemptions were part of the political compromise that allowed legislators to pass Title IX.
In practice, the Office for Civil Rights has never denied a claim for a religious exemption to Title IX. While historically the number of colleges claiming exemptions was small, since the Obama administration’s guidance on LGBTQ students, the number of religious exemptions being claimed has increased.
In response, LGTBQ+ students have been filing legal challenges to the religious exemption, of which this latest case is an example. At Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC, we are committed to remaining abreast of all the latest Title IX developments, including those that impact religious institutions and LGTBQ+ people.