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Department of Education fails LGBTQ+ community

New position will not overpower CU

On Monday, Feb. 12, the US Department of Education confirmed that they would no longer be investigating or taking action on any complaints filed by transgender students who have been banned from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

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The Education Department currently holds the position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by 1972 federal civil rights law Title IX. Title IX 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.” Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, argued that, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”

Title IX has been prevalent in the US for the past two decades, but it was most prominent in the Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Gavin Grimm is a transgender male at Gloucester High School, located in Virginia, who filed a lawsuit against his school arguing that their bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX. The policy segregated transgender students from their peers and effectively expelled trans students from communal restrooms by requiring them to use “alternative private” restroom facilities. Looking back at this case in 2016, when Grimm won his case over Title IX, it was a huge potential game changer in the national debate over Title IX and gender identity; this new administrative position is contrary to that ruling.

“I think it’s a really bad idea,” Kaiba Lithicum, a Student Program Assistant at the LGBTQ+ Student Resource Center, said. “Especially [since], in just a year from 2016 to 2017 there’s been a huge spike in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people; I can’t imagine what it must be like for younger people who are out or trans, and especially in schools who are not in support of their identity. It’s going to be a rough time. They aren’t protecting kids anymore, and that really sucks because these kids are at a really vulnerable state in their lives.” The question of what happens in states that lack these laws then comes to light.

According to NPR, states like Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and many other states allow discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. But it’s states like Colorado that have the opportunity to make a difference at the regional level and move forward to make change at the national level. According to One Colorado, “LGBTQ+ persons in the state of Colorado live in one of the more socially liberal US states with wider protections for LGBT people. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Colorado and the state recognizes same-sex marriages.”

For the Women and Gender Center on campus, it’s how to go from here despite this setback. “It’s certainly a disappointment for us and many others,” said graduate assistant Jamie Newton. “It’s nonsensical in that problems arise when we restrict people from the opportunities to use the facilities that they need to use. CU Denver will keep doing the work they’ve been doing. We will continue to do the best we can to make sure people know they are welcome here and that there are resources available to them and make sure that CU is a safe space.” Jacob McWilliams, the Director of the Women and Gender Center, offered a word of encouragement to students here at CU: “It’s a scary time for many of us, as we learn how to navigate a world of increasingly narrow access, support, and acceptance. We need to support each other, and we especially need the support of allies during this challenging time. If you need help learning what you can do as a non-transgender ally, please feel free to reach out to my office—we can offer resources, training, and support to you, too.”

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