Texas Lawmakers Won’t Stop Harassing LGBTQ+ Kids

Student draped in rainbow flag
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered schools in his state to ignore new federal rules that protect LGBTQ+ students.

Cage Rivera/Rewire News Group illustration

This piece first appeared in our weekly newsletter, The Fallout.

Conservative attorneys general ratcheted up their attacks on LGBTQ+ students in a series of lawsuits filed this week designed to block the Biden administration’s newly released rules targeting harassment and sex assault in schools.

The U.S. Department of Education’s new rules clarify that Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding also apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a necessary and overdue clarification that would bring Title IX in line with other federal law and Supreme Court precedent (written by Justice Neil Gorsuch even!) that says Title VII, which similarly bans sex discrimination in many workplaces, also applies to claims of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

The new rules also unwind changes to how colleges and universities handle sexual assault claims implemented by the Trump administration, including requirements that men’s rights organizations advocated for, such as “live hearings,” where students accused of sexual assault could question and confront their accuser in a “courtroom-like” setting.

Predictably, conservative attorneys general like Texas’ Ken Paxton have sued to have the rules blocked. The rules are scheduled to take effect in August.

Lawsuits have been filed in Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana all demanding the federal courts block the rules, arguing that they exceed the Biden’s administration’s authority. But the heart of their argument boils down to nothing more than trans panic. They argue that Title IX was only designed to apply to discrimination on the basis of “biological sex,” a reading that could undo many—if not all—of the legal protections advocates have secured for LGBTQ+ students.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has even taken things one step further, ordering schools in his state to ignore the rules altogether while the lawsuits proceed, further endangering Texas’ LGBTQ+ students.

It’s a terrible end to a school year where conservative legislative hate campaigns have targeted trans kids in particular. The Biden administration hasn’t responded yet to these lawsuits, but the timing of their filing guarantees that, like abortion, the issue of protecting LGBTQ+ students in schools will be part of the electoral conversation, when in reality, neither should be up for political debate at all.