A group of 22 Republican attorneys general is suing the federal government after the United States Department of Agriculture released new guidance on school meals that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The lawsuit contends that the federal government is misconstruing Title IX, a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who is leading the action, has argued that President Joe Biden’s administration is attempting to alter the law without going through the appropriate channels.
“This case is, yet again, about a federal agency trying to change law, which is Congress’ exclusive prerogative,” Slatery said in a statement on July 26. “The USDA simply does not have that authority. We have successfully challenged the Biden Administration’s other attempts to rewrite law and we will challenge this as well.”
The states argue the federal government is “enforcing an expansive and unlawful interpretation of federal antidiscrimination laws under the threat of withdrawing key food assistance program funding.”
“To be clear, the States do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the complaint reads. “But the States do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose—obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns.”
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia are all participating in the challenge.
“The coalition of attorneys general are hoping for a similar result to a separate challenge from earlier this month when a Tennessee judge temporarily barred two federal agencies from enforcing directives issued by Biden’s administration that extended protections for LGBTQ people in schools and workplaces,” per NBC News.
The USDA announced on May 5 that it would include Title IX’s discrimination based on sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement. “At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face.”
In a letter sent to Biden on June 14, the attorneys general argued that “vastly expanding the concept” of sex-based discrimination constitutes imposing new and unlawful regulations on state agencies that receive USDA funding.
“The inevitable result is regulatory chaos that would threaten the effective provision of essential nutritional services to some of our most vulnerable citizens,” the letter stated.
The state representatives asked Biden to explain and withdraw the guidance.