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Judge blocks Biden’s Title IX rule in four states, dealing a blow to protections for LGBTQ+ students

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new Title IX rule expanding protections for LGBTQ+ students has been temporarily blocked in four states after a federal judge in Louisiana ruled it exceeded the Department of Education’s authority.

In a preliminary injunction issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty called the new rule an “abuse of power” and a “threat to democracy.” His order blocks the rule in Louisiana, which challenged the rule in April, and in Mississippi, Montana and Idaho, which joined the lawsuit.

The Department of Education defended the rule and said it is reviewing the judge’s order.

“The department is committed to the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student,” the agency said in a statement.

The Louisiana case is among seven supported by more than 20 Republican-led states battling Biden’s administration. The rule, which takes effect in August, extends Title IX civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ students, expands the definition of sexual harassment in schools and colleges and adds safeguards for victims.

Doughty, appointed by former President Donald Trump, is the first judge to block the rule. It deals a major blow to the new protections, which were praised by civil rights advocates but also echoed by opponents who say they undermine the spirit of Title IX, a 1972 law that bans sex discrimination in education.

Louisiana is among the Republican states with laws requiring people to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their sex at birth, restricting transgender students from using facilities that match their gender identity. President Joe Biden’s administration is in violation of those laws and purports to replace them.

The Louisiana lawsuit argued that the new rule would force schools in the four states to pay millions of dollars to modernize their facilities. In his ruling, the judge called it an “invasion of state sovereignty” and concluded that the states were likely to succeed on the merits of the case.

His order says the rule likely violates free speech laws by requiring schools to use pronouns requested by students. It also questions whether the Biden administration has the legal authority to expand Title IX to LGBTQ+ students.

“The Court finds that, at the time of enactment, the term ‘sex discrimination’ included only discrimination against biological males and females,” Doughty wrote in his order.

The judge expressed concern that the rule could require schools to allow transgender women and girls to participate on female sports teams. Several Republican states have laws banning transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams.

The Biden administration has proposed a separate rule that would ban such blanket bans, but said the newly final rule does not apply to athletics. Still, Doughty said it could be interpreted as applying to sports.

“The Final Rule applies to sex discrimination in any educational ‘program’ or ‘activity’ that receives federal financial assistance,” he wrote. “The terms ‘program’ or ‘activity’ are not defined but could potentially include sports teams for host schools.”

Judges in at least six other cases are weighing whether to restrict Biden’s rule in a similar manner. The Defense of Freedom Institute, a right-wing nonprofit that supported the Louisiana lawsuit, applauded Doughty’s order.

“We are confident that other courts and states will soon follow suit,” said Bob Eitel, president of the nonprofit and a Trump administration education official.

Biden issued the new rule after dismantling another rule created by Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos. That rule narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and added protections for students accused of sexual misconduct.

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The Associated Press’ education coverage receives funding from several private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s Standards for Working with Charities, a list of supporters, and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

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