One of the defining through-lines of the Trump administration was the robust disenfranchisement of transgender people, whether students simply trying to use the bathroom or aspiring service members trying to join the armed forces. But since coming into office this year, President Biden has made a concerted effort to roll back his predecessor's efforts and reassert basic protections against discrimination which the transgender community lacked under Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, that effort took a significant step forward, with an announcement from Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, affirming that the Department of Education will once again include sexual orientation and, crucially, gender identity, as part of the suite of classes protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The announcement comes one year after the Supreme Court's ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which affirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected from discrimination.
"The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination — and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections. I'm proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination," Cardona said in a statement accompanying Wednesday's announcement. "Today, the Department makes clear that all students — including LGBTQ+ students — deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination." The Biden administration's Department of Health and Human Services issued a similar guidance just over a month ago.
Discrimination against transgender students has been a major animating force among Republicans across the country, who have introduced a host of state-level bills to bar trans girls from participating in girls' sports in school. And as Cardona conceded to The New York Times, the Education Department's announcement will not actually change how allegations of discrimination against transgender students will be reported and investigated. "The reality is each case has to be investigated individually," Cardona said. Wednesday's announcement, then, was "really clarity around how we interpret [Title IX]" to provide guidance to local schools for what the federal government will and won't allow funds to be used toward, he said.
Earlier this spring, the Biden administration ordered Cardona to review all the Trump-era changes to the Education Department's Title IX interpretations as part of his White House's overarching push for gender equality. In March, Biden announced the establishment of an official Gender Policy Council within the executive branch.