Tuesday, January 12, 2021

DOE Says Bostock Decision Does Not Apply To Title IX

 As reported by Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education has released a Jan. 8, 2021 Memorandum (full text) on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's Bostock decision on Title IX. While Bostock held that the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the DOE Memo concludes that Bostock does not apply to Title IX, saying in part:

[T]he Department’s longstanding construction of the term “sex” in Title IX to mean biological sex, male or female, is the only construction consistent with the ordinary public meaning of “sex” at the time of Title IX’s enactment.

The memo goes on to provide that some kinds of discrimination based on a person's homosexuality or transgender status may violate Title IX because the discrimination takes into account the person's biological sex.  Examples are employment discrimination and sexual harassment. However, in other educational situations, Title IX does not protect against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination:

We believe the ordinary public meaning of controlling statutory and regulatory text requires a recipient providing separate athletic teams to separate participants solely based on their biological sex, male or female, and not based on transgender status or homosexuality, to comply with Title IX.

Under Title IX and its regulations, a person’s biological sex is relevant for the considerations involving athletics, and distinctions based thereon are permissible and may be required because the sexes are not similarly situated.

Disagreeing with two Circuit Court opinions, the memo states:

[W]e believe the plain ordinary public meaning of the controlling statutory and regulatory text requires a recipient providing “separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” to regulate access based on biological sex.

The Memorandum also recognizes that religious exemptions under Title IX and RFRA still apply.