A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a directive that would threaten schools with an investigation if it prevented a student from joining a sports team or using the restroom or locker room that aligns with the gender they identify with.
Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee said on Friday that the U.S. Education Department’s guidance would prevent states from enforcing their own laws on bathroom access and girls’ sports as he blocked it.
“As demonstrated above, the harm alleged by Plaintiff States is already occurring—their sovereign power to enforce their own legal code is hampered by the issuance of Defendants’ guidance and they face substantial pressure to change their state laws as a result,” Atchley wrote.
The case began in 2021 when 20 attorneys general from mainly Republican-led states sued the Education Department over the guidance, saying it is an “erroneous interpretation” of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in schools.
The state officials also said that they were at risk of losing significant federal funding because the Biden directives conflicted with their own state laws.
Atchley, appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, concurred. He said in his order on Friday that the states “cannot continue regulating pursuant to their state laws while simultaneously complying with Defendants’ guidance.”
The Justice Department, the Education Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The three had earlier requested that Atchley dismiss the states’ lawsuit. He denied the motion in his Friday ruling.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the ruling “is a major victory for women’s sports, and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in their school bathrooms and locker rooms.”
“I am grateful the court ruled for Oklahoma and stopped the Biden Administration from enforcing its outrageous reading of Title IX, to include gender identity as a protected class. I will continue to hold President Biden accountable and do everything I can to uphold the rule of law.”
Dispute Over Interpretation of Court Decision
The coalition of attorneys general, led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, filed the lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Knoxville back in August 2021, asking the court to block the Education Department’s guidance.
The guidance issued in June 2021 (pdf) said the department may launch a Title IX investigation if a school prevents a student from joining a sports team or using the restroom or locker room that didn’t accord with their gender at birth.
The coalition of states argued in the suit that the Education Department’s guidance improperly expanded on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2020, in a case called Bostock v. Clayton County.
The case focused on Title VII, a 1972 federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court had said that employers cannot terminate workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Education Department, in its guidance, had concluded that because Title IX, which bars sex bias in federally funded educational programs, borrowed language from Title VII, the Bostock decision also applied to schools.
The department said, for example, that preventing a transgender high school girl from using the girls’ restroom or trying out for the girls’ cheerleading team would violate Title IX.
Atchley on Friday agreed with the states. He noted in his ruling that the Supreme Court, in its Bostock decision, had “explicitly refused to decide whether ‘sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes’ violate Title VII.”
Bill Pan, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times