A Republican lawmaker has told Tennessee colleges and universities that acknowledging LGBTQ students in public materials as “protected” under federal Title IX law could be violating state law.
Rep. John Ragan (R) reached out to public higher education institutions, including the University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University, in August asking schools to “immediately revoke” or remove materials that suggest LGBTQ people are protected under the landmark law.
Title IX is a federal law that bars discrimination on the basis of sex at institutions that receive federal assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Education; the institutions are required to operate in a “nondiscriminatory manner” on the basis of sex.
The department had proposed changes to Title IX such as the addition of phrases that would include LGBTQ people in the law, WREG-TV reported, but those changes were temporarily blocked by a federal judge in Tennessee in July.
Ragan’s letter cited the federal court order, stating it “enjoined and restrained” federal officials from using the department’s previous guidance to protect LGBTQ people under the law, WBIR-TV reported.
You can read the letter, published by WBIR-TV, below.
The University of Tennessee responded to Ragan by stating it did not change its public Title IX materials including websites and policies.
“We do not believe anything in our current policies, procedures, or statements relating to title IX or nondiscrimination violates either federal or state law,” the university wrote to Ragan.
East Tennessee State University responded to the letter by removing references to protections for LGBTQ people on at least one website, WJHL-TV reported.
“Universities are not at liberty to ignore state law, regardless of their accreditation or certification organizations say they most have to get their accreditation,” Ragan told WREG-TV.
“These are not governmental entities, and as such universities must follow state law over and above what these organizations tell them.”