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Federal Judge Blocks Biden Administration's Title IX Regulations in Another 4 States, Citing Overreach and Vagueness

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On Tuesday, a federal district court judge issued an order of some significance, enjoining the Biden administration from enforcing its new regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in four states: Alaska, Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming.

A ruling by District of Kansas Judge John Broomes has prompted a little sensation and concern. Friday's ruling bears on significant questions touching on discrimination based on gender identity and the meaning of federal law.

Federal Judge Blocks Biden Administration's Title IX Regulations in Another 4 States, Citing Overreach and Vagueness

(Photo : PEXELS / Oriel Frankie Ashcroft)

The Court's Reasons: Overreach and Vagueness

An opinion spanning 47 pages by Judge John Broomes clearly integrated two major concerns regarding the new Title IX regulations. First, he reasoned that the Education Department does not have a mandate to extend the definition of discrimination based on sex under Title IX to include gender identity. Doing so was beyond what Congress had allowed the Education Department to do. Broomes then argues that these new regulations can stifle free speech due to their "vague and overbroad language." It is very vague, he holds, so educational institutions are not clear as to what would constitute compliance, and hence, there might be some self-censorship or an overcautious stance in handling related issues.

These protections for LGBTQ+ students, at the center of the Kansas lawsuit and similar challenges, have seen legal pushback, with Broomes being the third federal judge within the past month who has struck back at the Biden administration on the matter. Those rules, slated to take effect Aug. 1, are now preliminarily enjoined not only in those states but also at any school or college attended by members of the three organizations that joined the lawsuitYoung America's FoundationMoms for Liberty, and Female Athletes United.

READ MORE: Federal Judge Blocks Biden Administration's Title IX Overhaul In 6 States, Citing Inconsistencies With Original Statute 

Effects on Schools and Colleges

According to the U.S. District Judge Broomes order, the Education Department cannot enforce the new Title IX rule nor can it impose penalties on institutions that fail to observe it. Regardless of that, this suggests that while it is still possible for individual schools and colleges to decide individually whether to adopt new policies on issues surrounding gender identity and discrimination, there will be no federal mandate forcing those institutions to do so under the blocked regulations.

The concerns of the plaintiffs in this Kansas case, among others, are that these new regulations would mandate the elimination of gender-specific facilities and lockers although some would hold that those offended the privacy and safety of cisgender students. In addition, they raise concerns regarding the financial burden of compliance and potential violations of First Amendment rights.

In defense, attorneys for the Biden administration have referenced the 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County to support their adjustment to Title IX. This landmark ruling found protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against sex discrimination to actually bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But District Judge Broomes dissents and says this precedent has no connection to Title IX, due to the statutory words there addressing biological sex on its face.

The Larger Legal and Social Context

Judge Broomes' ruling is at the center of a contentious debate over the role and scope of Title IX, a law originally codified to prohibit sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity. The Biden administration's efforts to have these protections reach gender identity have hosted runs that go between very passionate support and fierce opposition.

Critics of Judge Broomes maintain that this extension just undermines the original intention of Title IX with regard to the protection of biological women within educational environments. According to Judge Broomes, treating cases under gender identity the same as under biological sex may present a compromise to privacy and safety for cisgender women, hence making arguments like that find echo chambers with groups such as Female Athletes United and Moms for Liberty.

The Biden administration could appeal this injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. This ruling and its impact will be carefully noted by schools, advocacy groups, and lawmakers alike as this legal battle continues, therefore shedding important light on how Title IX is considered and construed in the future with respect to the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ students.

This case highlights one of the oldest tensions buried in American civil rights law: the tension between expanding safeguards and relying on long-established terms within federal statutes. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the ever-striking balance between these interests will dictate for generations the contours of educational equity and inclusion in the United States.

RELATED ARTICLE: Federal Judges Challenge Biden Administration's Title IX Overhaul, Sparking National Debate On LGBTQ+ Protections 

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