22 AGs sue USDA to stop withholding school lunches over gender, sexual orientation rules

(The Center Square) – Schools ordering food for the beginning of the fall semester could be facing uncertainty over whether they’ll receive federal assistance that’s the center of a legal…

(The Center Square) – Schools ordering food for the beginning of the fall semester could be facing uncertainty over whether they’ll receive federal assistance that’s the center of a legal battle for being tied to sex discrimination rules.

Twenty-two attorneys general are suing the Biden administration to prevent any loss of federal nutrition assistance for failing to obey the funding catch tying the money to other issues.

In May, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced any state, local agency, program operator or sponsor receiving its funding must “investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.” The USDA also required all organizations to update discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Approximately 30 million school children participate in USDA programs for breakfast, lunch or both meals. The new rule affects approximately 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential childcare institutions receiving federal funds to provide free or reduced-price meals.

The USDA said it was interpreting the nondiscrimination directive in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and in the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

After sending a letter objecting to the new rule in June, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a 17-count complaints against the USDA on Tuesday. The suit contends the Biden administration incorrectly uses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County to apply to anti-discrimination requirements. That ruling found the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The Biden Administration is attempting to hold Missouri children’s lunch money hostage in order to further its woke agenda,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, said in a statement. “This is yet another attempt by the Biden Administration to warp Title IX to fit their agenda. I will continue to make sure that bureaucrats are required to follow the law and will halt the Biden Administration’s bully tactics to protect imperative lunch funding for our children.”

The lawsuit contends the USDA’s guidance is unlawful as states and other entities weren’t allowed an opportunity to provide input as required by the Administrative Procedures Act. It claims the Supreme Court’s ruling is being misapplied and the new guidance will create regulatory chaos.

“This case is, yet again, about a federal agency trying to change law, which is Congress’ exclusive prerogative,” Slatery said in a statement. “The USDA simply does not have that authority. We have successfully challenged the Biden Administration’s other attempts to rewrite law and we will challenge this as well.”

States joining the lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.