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Texas wins first round in battle over Title IX lawsuit

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A federal court on Tuesday handed Texas its first win in a lawsuit filed against the Biden administration over a mandate issued by two federal agencies before the administration amended Title IX to redefine biological sex to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Title IX, which is part of the Education Amendments Act 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 law was enacted at a time when women and girls had limited athletic opportunities. “Before Title IX, few opportunities existed for female athletes,” according to History.com. After Title IX, participation in female sports increased exponentially, the girl’s high school dropout rate decreased and the number of women pursuing higher education and who completed college degrees increased, it says.

Under the Obama and Biden administrations, regulatory efforts sought to redefine sex to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” by providing an unfair advantage to biological boys and men wanting to compete in women’s sports, a coalition of attorneys general have argued. In 2022, they opposed a Biden administration plan to reimpose Obama-era changes to Title IX that the Trump administration ended.

Despite widespread opposition, including from women’s groups, the Biden administration began amending Title IX through several methods, arguing doing so would “advance educational equity and opportunity for women and girls across the country.”

It proposed a rule change to change the law and issued mandates through the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice, agencies responsible for administering and enforcing Title IX.

In response to the proposed rule changes, a coalition of 18 AGs pushed back, arguing the changes “demolished” women’s and girls’ rights, “making a mockery of Title IX’s fundamental organization principle – basic biology.”

In response to the agency mandates, in June 2023, Texas sued, arguing agency guidance was “arbitrary and capricious” and “unlawfully extended Title IX to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes.”

Earlier this year, after the Biden administration formalized its rule change to Title IX, multiple states sued. Texas filed its own lawsuit. Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho filed a separate lawsuit. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina filed a third lawsuit, The Center Square reported.

On Tuesday, the first court ruling handed Texas a win, setting a precedent for rulings to come.

Judge Reed O’Connor, presiding over the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division, said the issue he was asked to rule on was “whether the federal government may lawfully impose conditions on a state’s educational institutions by purporting to interpret Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments as prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“The court concludes that Defendants cannot regulate state educational institutions in this way without violating federal law,” he wrote in his 112-page ruling. He also said the DOE and DOJ “engaged in unlawful agency action taken in excess of their authority, all while failing to adhere to the appropriate notice and comments requirements when doing so.”

O’Connor chastised the agencies, saying they “failed to follow the proper procedures. Rather than promote the equal opportunity, dignity, and respect that Title IX demands for both biological sexes, [the DOE’s] Guidance Documents do the opposite in an effort to advance an agenda wholly divorced from the text, structure, and contemporary context of Title IX.”

He said to allow the administration’s “unlawful action to stand would be to functionally rewrite Title IX in a way that shockingly transforms American education and usurps a major question from Congress. That is not how our democratic system functions.”

O’Connor granted Texas’ motion for summary judgement and denied the Biden administration’s request to dismiss. He also vacated the guidance nationwide and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement in Texas.

The DOE’s and DOJ’s guidance “would have forced Texas schools and universities to allow biological males to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-specific spaces,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “Any Texas school refusing to follow the mandate risked losing federal education funding.”

The guidance, like the rule change, threatened to withhold federal education funding if states refuse to accept the administration’s redefinition of sex and other stipulations.

O’Connor’s ruling “ensures that no school district in the State of Texas will have to comply with the Biden Administration’s interpretation of Title IX as including gender-identity requirements, including allowing men into women’s restrooms or locker rooms or sports teams, or requiring students or teachers to use pronouns based on gender identity rather than biological sex,” Paxton said.

The DOE and DOJ have yet to say if they will appeal the ruling.