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Ohio AG, Republican lawmakers speak out against overhaul of federal rules on gender

Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) at a press conference in May 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) at a press conference in May 2024.

Some Ohio officials are pushing back against changes to a federal law that seeks to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination at school based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Six attorneys general, including Ohio's Dave Yost, have sued the U.S. Department of Education over the agency’s latest revised regulations to Title IX, which are scheduled to take effect in August. Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia are signed onto the lawsuit, with the former leading the charge.

According to a news release detailing the changes, the Biden administration's intent is to “clarify Title IX’s requirement that schools promptly and effectively address all forms of sex discrimination.”

The revised regulations do that by outlining that discrimination within the law includes discrimination against someone's sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to their physical characteristics or pregnancy status.

But Yost argued in a news release they essentially work to redefine sex—which, he said, conflicts with the original purpose of Title IX to prohibit discrimination while still acknowledging physical differences between men and women.

“Under the guise of addressing ‘gender identity discrimination,’ the states’ lawsuit maintains, the Department of Education this month finalized new regulations that would essentially eliminate sex-based distinctions in educational activities and programs,” Yost wrote.

Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) have filed Ohio House and Senate resolutions condemning the changes.

“We feel the need to stand up and defend our women, defend our children, defend our girls from this misinterpretation and unlawful misinterpretation of something that has been settled for many, many years,” Bird said at a news conference this week.

They argue the federal mandate would clash with pending state proposals, such as House Bill 183, which says K-12 and higher education institutions in Ohio must require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates. That's passed a House committee but hasn't gone to a full floor vote.

Bird and Brenner also note a potential conflict with the law created by House Bill 88, which blocks transgender Ohioans from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity. HB 68 has been on hold in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas for a month.

But the federal revised regulations do not directly mention transgender athletes. The agency said last month it is still in the rulemaking process for athletic provisions, which received more than 150,000 public comments.

Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) railed against the state resolutions in an emailed statement.

“Once again, Andy Brenner and his cohort are shamelessly targeting LGBTQ+ individuals with a resolution that's as hollow as it is hateful,” DeMora wrote.

The lawsuit filed by Yost and other attorneys general is in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 can be found here, but the House concurrent resolution was not yet available online.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.