US judge in Kentucky blocks Biden Title IX rules, says ‘sex,’ ‘gender identity’ not the same thing

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Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (File/Mathew Mueller/Kentucky Lantern)

A federal judge has blocked new Title IX rules, including those aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in K-12 schools, and sided with Republican attorneys general in six states.

Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky on Monday issued a ruling siding with Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman and his GOP counterparts in five other states. The ruling prevents the U.S. Department of Education from “implementing, enacting, enforcing, or taking any action to enforce the Final Rule, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” which was set to begin Aug. 1.

Reeves limited the injunction to the plaintiff states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia. The ruling brings to 10 the total number of states where the new rules are blocked with an injunction. Last week, a different federal judge temporarily blocked implementation in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson joined a separate lawsuit with attorneys general from Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Coleman and the five GOP attorneys general involved in the Kentucky decision also filed their lawsuit in April. At the time, they argued the Department of Education “used rulemaking power to convert a law designed to equalize opportunities for both sexes into a far broader regime of its own making” with the new Title IX regulations.

The Biden administration introduced the rules to “build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming, and respect their rights,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. The rules also would have rolled back Trump administration changes that narrowly defined sexual harassment and directed schools to conduct live hearings, allowing those who were accused of sexual harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers.

In their complaint, the state attorneys general said that under the Biden rule, “men who identify as women will, among other things, have the right to compete within programs and activities that Congress made available to women so they can fairly and fully pursue academic and athletic excellence — turning Title IX’s protections on their head. … And anyone who expresses disagreement with this new status quo risks Title IX discipline for prohibited harassment.”

Established in 1972, Title IX was created to prevent “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the Department of Education.

Reeves wrote in his opinion that “the Department of Education seeks to derail deeply rooted law” created by the implementation of Title IX.

“At bottom, the Department would turn Title IX on its head by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’ But ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ do not mean the same thing,” he wrote. “The Department’s interpretation conflicts with the plain language of Title IX and therefore exceeds its authority to promulgate regulations under that statute.”

In a press release, Coleman’s office said Monday that schools that would fail to comply with the new rules would risk losing federal funding. Citing the Department of Education, the office said Kentucky’s public and private schools received a total of $1.1 billion in federal funding last year.

“As a parent and as Attorney General, I joined this effort to protect our women and girls from harm. Today’s ruling recognized the 50-plus years of educational opportunities Title IX has created for students and athletes,” Coleman said in the press release. “We’re grateful for the court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the Biden Administration’s attempts to rip away protections to advance its political agenda.”

A spokesperson for the department said it was reviewing the ruling.

“Title IX guarantees that no person experience sex discrimination in a federally-funded educational environment,” the spokesperson added. “The Department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee. The Department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

Like SC Daily Gazette, the Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: info@kentuckylantern.com. Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and X.

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