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'A backwards betrayal': Biden Title IX proposal draws criticism from LGBTQ community

Some LGBTQ advocates this week slammed the Biden administration’s proposed revision to Title IX, accusing the president of backtracking on his commitment to protecting transgender young people.

The proposal, released Thursday by the Education Department, would prohibit the adoption of policies that “categorically” ban transgender athletes from school sports teams consistent with their gender identity, rebuking broad bans that have been implemented by 20 states, and counting.

But K-12 schools under the administration’s proposal would still have the leeway to limit transgender athletes’ participation in sports if they determine that including them will undermine competitive fairness or increase the risk of sports-related injuries, a senior Education Department official said Thursday.

“The proposed regulation would give schools flexibility to identify their own important educational objectives,” rather than adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, the official said on a call with reporters.

LGBTQ Americans and their allies have had mixed reactions to the administration’s proposed changes. While some are celebrating the possibility of a new federal civil rights law prohibiting laws that bar transgender students from participating in school sports, others say the proposal is a disappointing departure from prior actions and statements made by the Biden White House in support of equal rights for transgender people.

“State lawmakers take note — discriminating against transgender athletes is wrong and a violation of federal law. This new rule makes that abundantly clear,” said Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.

Robinson added, however, that the new rule should be updated to clarify that “all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.”

“The Biden Administration framed their proposal as a ban on blanket discrimination against trans athletes. But actually it provides guidelines for how schools and universities can ban trans athletes legally,” Imara Jones, the founder and chief executive of TransLash Media, said Friday.

“It’s hard to have a ‘middle ground’ when it comes [to] supporting human rights for trans people, and I can’t see how Joe Biden can straddle the fence here,” she said.

The White House declined to comment.

Biden, during his time in office, has on multiple occasions promised to defend the rights of transgender Americans and has condemned state bills that seek to restrict how transgender young people may access health care, use the restroom and play sports.

On his first day in office in 2021, Biden signed an executive order to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, writing, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

In a Twitter post on Thursday, Alejandra Caraballo, a transgender activist and instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, called the proposed changes to Title IX a “backwards betrayal” that distracts from more important issues, like statewide bans on gender-affirming health care.

“He could have just done nothing,” Caraballo wrote. “This is legitimizing transphobia.”

Caraballo added that the rules outlined in the administration’s proposal are “mushy” and are likely to have little impact over whether schools choose to categorically exclude transgender students from competitive athletics.

On Thursday, the senior Education Department official said the department is “ready and eager” to work with schools to develop policies that both satisfy Title IX and minimize harms for transgender students.

This is not the first time Biden and his administration have been accused of backtracking on LGBTQ rights or not doing enough for the community, and advocacy groups following this year’s State of the Union address said the president missed a rare opportunity to denounce anti-LGBTQ hate and violence in front of Congress and the nation.

Biden, during the roughly 73-minute speech, referenced LGBTQ rights only twice, despite hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ people under consideration in state legislatures nationwide and anti-LGBTQ violence so prevelant it was the subject of a House Oversight hearing last year.

“You say trans youth are brave and claim to have their backs, and your administration has not done enough to sufficiently protect them,” actress Angelica Ross said last year during an LGBTQ State of the Union. “Talk is cheap. We need you to act.”

In a statement on Friday, Sean Ebony Coleman, the founder and executive director of Destination Tomorrow, a New York City-based LGBTQ center and advocacy group, said the administration’s proposed rule is “wholly underdeveloped.”

“While it hypothetically prevents across-the-board bans, it offers enough gray area for discrete gender policing and demonization to occur, specifically on a local level,” Coleman said Friday. “We need policymakers, especially on a national level, to completely rule out any option for this community to be further ostracized.”

In a post on Twitter late Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the proposal “embarrassing” and urged the Education Department to reverse course.

“Absolutely no reason for the Biden admin to do this. It is indefensible and embarrassing,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “The admin can still walk this back, and they should. It’s a disgrace.”

Source: The Hill

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