Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule change concerning education programs and school activities that receive federal financial assistance.
On April 6, the ED released a proposed rule under Title IX anti-discrimination laws to “clarify” the participation of transgender students in school sports. The proposed rule focuses on sex-related eligibility criteria for male and female athletic teams, specifically advocating for the recognition of gender identity rather than biological sex in determining team eligibility.
ERLC has joined several organizations and scholars in voicing opposition to the proposed rule change, arguing that it undermines the original intent of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The intention of Title IX was to provide equal opportunities for both men and women seeking to participate in educational institutions and extracurricular activities that receive federal funding.
The law has been instrumental in advancing athletic opportunities for girls and women. As Hannah Daniel, ERLC’s policy manager, said, “Since the passage of Title IX over 50 years ago, women and girls have been afforded new opportunities for advancement in education and athletics.”
However, this new rule establishes that federally-funded schools may violate Title IX if they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their claimed gender identity, but it also offers some vague and narrow circumstances where banning transgender athletes could be acceptable.
The ERLC’s letter
In response to the rule change, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education expressing concerns about the proposed rule. Leatherwood argues that the rule violates the original intent of Title IX, which was enacted to provide equal opportunities for women and girls. ERLC believes that the proposed rule, which would require schools and universities to adopt gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of athletic competition, will undermine the purpose of Title IX. This change will also force women to compete against and share bathroom and changing facilities with biological males.
In the letter, Leatherwood raises concerns the ERLC has about the proposed rule’s impact on the biblical truth of binary sexes and biological realities. He argues that the rule would expand beyond these truths and conflate “sex” with “gender,” a shift that hinders the good and flourishing of our neighbors and discounts the human dignity of their fellow citizens. Leatherwood notes,
A refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports by changing the very law that sought to achieve equality in the first place. If the proposed change is accepted, the law created to protect women from discrimination and provide them equality would discriminate against them and make them more unequal than ever before, as they would now be forced to compete and share facilities with biological males, who have distinct physical differences than females.
ERLC is urging the ED to retract the proposed rule so that the original intent of Title IX—to protect women and girls in athletic endeavors—may be realized. The ED is obligated by federal law to respond to each comment before finalizing the rule.
The proposed rule change has sparked a significant concern about the Biden administration’s efforts to undermine the original intent of Title IX. As the discussion continues, it will be crucial for Christians to pray that such efforts will be thwarted and to lobby the federal government to consider the potential effects on all students and the future of athletics in educational institutions.