Judge dismisses LGBT students’ case against Christian colleges

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Christian colleges by LGBT students whose arguments were “confusing and contradictory,” according to the court’s opinion.

Forty students who currently or previously attended religious institutions alleged the schools discriminated against them because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Although Title IX prohibits federally funded organizations from practicing sex-based discrimination, religious schools are exempt if the application of Title IX would be “inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.”

The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court of Oregon, “seeks to nullify the religious exemption to Title IX that allows widespread discrimination against LGBTQ students at faith-based colleges and universities across the nation,” said the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), which represented the plaintiffs.  

In the suit, the plaintiffs cite the Fourteenth Amendment, interpreting substantive due process and equal protection of rights to include the right to “bodily integrity,” the right to marry, the right to “culturally competent sexual and reproductive health services,” the right “to be clothed and groomed consistent with one’s sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity,” and the right “to medically necessary gender-affirming medical and psychological care.”  

They allege they were discriminated against through institutional actions including discipline, expulsion, rejection of admission, and recension of admission.  

Although the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “forbids the government from advancing religious, the Supreme Court has interpreted it to allow, and sometimes require, the accommodation of religious practices,” wrote Judge Ann Aiken.  

Ultimately, Aiken ruled the plaintiffs “do not plausibly demonstrate that the religious exemption was motivated by any impermissible purpose” and dismissed the case.  

The students are considering an appeal.  

“It’s frustrating that the Court has enough sense to know we’ve been hurt and impacted but still won’t do anything to prevent this discrimination from continuing to happen,” said Rachel Held, one of the student plaintiffs.  

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented three of the Defendants, also commented on the dismissal:  

“A federal district court today rightly rejected an unfounded assault on the religious freedom of faith-based educational institutions,” said David Cortman, senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation at ADF.  

“Title IX, which applies to schools receiving federal financial assistance, explicitly protects the freedom of religious schools to live out their deeply and sincerely held convictions.”