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Lambda Legal: DOJ On Solid Ground Finding that Title IX Prohibits Discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

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April 5, 2021
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The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division today issued a memo concluding that the sex discrimination protections within Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The memo applies the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling last year in Bostock v. Clayton County, and builds upon President Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation issued immediately on taking office, to reinforce that the Bostock ruling necessarily extends to all federal sex discrimination protections, including Title IX’s protections for LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth.

Sharon McGowan, Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director at Lambda Legal, issued the following statement:

“We are thrilled to see more evidence that the Civil Rights Division is back in business again, as demonstrated by the public release of a memorandum making clear that the sex discrimination protections of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“As set forth in today’s memo, the conclusion that the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision applies to the sex discrimination protections of Title IX is a no-brainer.  Nevertheless, it is extremely important to have this kind of clarity from the Justice Department, which is charged with coordination of the implementation and enforcement of Title IX across federal agencies.

“Today’s action by the Civil Rights Division builds upon the Biden administration’s Day One executive order to clarify the protections that exist under federal law against anti-LGBTQ discrimination and, more broadly, to restore the respect for the rule of law that was notably absent during the dark years of the Trump administration.  Lawmakers across the country have just received very clear notice that DOJ views anti-LGBTQ discrimination as within the scope of Title IX’s protections.  We hope that they take this message seriously, and stand down from their dangerous and mean-spirited attacks on our community, particularly those targeting transgender youth.”

From today’s memo:

“[T]he Division has determined that the best reading of Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ is that it includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

Read today’s memo here: https://www.justice.gov/crt/page/file/1383026/download

Today’s memo makes specific reference to Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of a transgender student in Florida, Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County. Lambda Legal won a ruling at the district court level, and then again at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit when the School Board appealed the district court ruling. Read more about Lambda Legal’s work with youth in schools here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/issues/schools