More than 20 Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration Tuesday over a Department of Agriculture school meal program rule. According to the Associated Press, the rule prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, schools that do not implement LGBTQ-friendly policies will face potential cuts in federal meal funding.
Led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, the lawsuit claims that the federal government is attempting to force states and schools to follow anti-discrimination requirements that “misconstrue the law.”
The rule is a result of a May announcement in which the USDA said it would include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as a violation of Title IX. Title IX is a 1972 law that guarantees equity between the sexes in “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Per the new rule, states are required to review allegations of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as update their policies and signage.
“Whether you are grocery shopping, standing in line at the school cafeteria, or picking up food from a food bank, you should be able to do so without fear of discrimination,” said Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under-Secretary Stacy Dean in a May 5 statement announcing the USDA’s effort.
While the agency emphasized volunteer compliance, it also noted that states and schools that receive federal funds have agreed to comply with federal civil rights laws.
According to the AP, the directive followed a landmark civil rights decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 that found that Title VII, protects gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.
The attorneys general involved in the lawsuit believe the new directive has not only misread the SCOTUS ruling, but has also failed to provide states and other groups the opportunity to provide public comment.
“We all know the Biden administration is dead-set on imposing an extreme left-wing agenda on Americans nationwide. But they’ve reached a new level of shamelessness with this ploy of holding up food assistance for low-income kids unless schools do the Left’s bidding,” Rokita said in a press release Tuesday.
Rokita made news this week for opening an investigation into the doctor who provided a medication abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who was forced to travel to Indiana to receive care.
By filing the lawsuit, the attorneys general are hoping to get a similar result as to a separate challenge from earlier this month, when a Tenessee judge temporarily barred two federal agencies from enforcing directives issued by Biden’s administration. Those directives also extended protections for LGBTQ+ people in schools and workplaces.
In that case, the judge sided with the attorneys general, and ruled that the directives infringed on states’ right to enact laws, the AP reported. The laws in question included the ability to ban students from participating in sports based on their gender identity or requiring schools and businesses to provide bathrooms and showers to accommodate transgender people; the judge believed policies involving such actions should be enacted by the state.
“This case is, yet again, about a federal agency trying to change law, which is Congress’ exclusive prerogative,” Slatery said in a statement. “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.”
As of this report, the following 22 state attorneys general are involved in the lawsuit: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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