Groups call on Department of Education to halt changes to Title IX

(The Center Square) – A coalition of 26 conservative organizations have called on the Biden administration to halt making changes to Title IX, which they argue, if implemented, will negatively harm girls and women.

In a letter sent to Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, the coalition expressed alarm over the administration’s “extremist position” to alter Title IX “by regulatory fiat.”

Title IX, which is part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, states, “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.”

One significant proposed change by the Biden administration is to add gender identity as a nondiscrimination category under Title IX. Doing so, the coalition argues, “would demolish 50 years of progress in women’s sports in schools, colleges, and universities and erode the rights of parents in K-12 schools.”

Such a change “is particularly disturbing to those of us who have cheered the great progress that has occurred in women’s sports since the passage of Title IX nearly fifty years ago,” the coalition wrote. “Such a move would unquestionably damage athletic opportunities for women in schools, colleges, and universities and wreak havoc on Title IX’s requirement to establish and maintain a level playing field for women in athletics.”

In December, Lhamon announced new rule changes would be published this month to ensure “that schools are providing students with educational environments free from discrimination in the form of sexual harassment.” The coalition argues this is already happening because of historic changes that went into effect in 2020.

Lhamon said the new rule would ensure “grievance procedures [are implemented] that provide for the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination.”

Lhamon also said the changes will address “discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in educational environments.”

But there’s “absolutely no reason to re-write the current Title IX rule, an historic regulation that protects survivors and requires due process for the accused,” said Bob Eitel, president of Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies, the group that organized the coalition’s letter.

“It appears that the Administration has allowed interest groups with extreme ideological agendas to commandeer the Title IX rulemaking process,” he said in a news release. “Americans who have cheered the progress in women’s sports over the last 50 years, as well as supporters of parents’ rights in K-12 and due process, free speech, and religious liberty on campus, should be very concerned.”

DFI maintains that Congress passed Title IX “for the purpose of preserving and enhancing athletic opportunities for women and girls based on their biological sex at birth.”

The department’s plan to redefine discrimination to include gender identity instead of biological sex “completely ignores the language and structure of Title IX,” the coalition argues. “Indeed, the very text of Title IX demonstrates an understanding that ‘sex’ is male or female – binary and biological. Underscoring this understanding of ‘sex,’ the statute expressly authorizes separation based on male or female ‘sex’ in certain circumstances.”

Longstanding DOE regulations allow educational programs and institutions to maintain a range of policies that would be altered under the proposed changes. Currently, sports are divided by sex, between biological male and female teams. Team selection, assessment of competitive skills for athletic scholarships, and a range of other policies, like establishing separate living facilities, bathrooms and changing rooms, among others, are all based on biological sex. This would be upended under the administration’s proposed changes, critics contend. Changing the definition of one’s biological sex would make it more difficult for biological girls and women to file discrimination or other types of claims against biological boys and men identifying as girls and women, respectively, who might harass or assault them, critics warn.

If the rule change were to go into effect, allowing biological men to compete in women’s sports, the results would be catastrophic for biological women, the coalition argues. It would likely lead to them losing positions on athletic teams, opportunities to compete for prizes and scholarships, and potentially being physically injured by stronger and larger biological men competing against them in certain sports, they add. Many women and girls wouldn’t be able to compete or participate in sports as a result. The result is the opposite of what Title IX intended, the coalition argues, “a statute that Congress has made clear creates and protects opportunities for biological women in athletics.”

If the Biden administration’s changes were to go into effect, many in the coalition are expected to sue, as are attorneys general in states whose legislatures passed laws to protect women’s and girls’ sports. Fifteen Republican AGs also sent a letter to Lhamon asking her to recuse herself from the process and to halt changing the rule.