LGBT civil rights advocates and educators are seeking guidance after learning that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has granted religious exemptions under Title IX to Simpson University in California and Spring Arbor University in Michigan that allow the colleges to discriminate against transgender students.
The news from the Education Department comes just weeks after an exemption to George Fox University was made public.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network on July 25 called on the Office of Civil Rights to expand upon its official guidance released just a few months ago clarifying that transgender and gender nonconforming students are protected under Title IX.
GLSEN also urged members of Congress to act to narrow the broad exemption found within Title IX.
“We are deeply concerned about the discriminatory impact of these decisions on youth seeking to improve their academic lives,” said GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard. “Where does this decision leave transgender high school and college students? It is imperative that these students — and the institutions they attend — understand what protections they do have and how those protections will be enforced.
She continued, "The Office of Civil Rights’ clarification in April that transgender students are protected under Title IX was a groundbreaking moment in the fight to end discrimination in education. However, these recent religious exemptions highlight the need for clarification of the full protections afforded transgender students under Title IX and an explanation of the rigorous standard needed to qualify for such an exemption."