Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Rescinds Sexual Assault Protections

Today, HRC responded to Trump-Pence administration’s announcement that they will be rescinding Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

“With today’s announcement, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have clearly drawn a line in the sand, stating that they prefer it be more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to receive justice,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBTQ Americans face disproportionate levels of sexual assault and violence. This unconscionable decision — coupled with the decision to rescind guidance aimed at protecting transgender students — sadly indicates that the Department of Education is no longer in the business of protecting students from harm.”

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. While historically known for its impact on women’s athletics admissions, Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination, as a matter of law, also requires schools to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as forms of sex discrimination. In addition, Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as evidenced by continuing case law, guidance previously issued by the Department of Education, and school district settlements to this effect.

LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment, and the stigma that many LGBTQ people face can make it more difficult for survivors to report. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts. In addition, a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 60 percent of gay and lesbian students and nearly 70 percent of bisexual students report being sexually harassed on campus.

In February, DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also withdrew important guidance that clarified schools’ obligations to protect transgender students from discrimination under Title IX.

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Ruling Affirms Civil Rights Laws Protect Employees from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Today, HRC hailed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit finding that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes protections based on sexual orientation. This decision marks the first time a federal appellate court has ruled this way and reverses a previous decision made in July.

“This critically important Circuit Court decision has adopted a well-grounded legal analysis concluding that our nation’s civil rights laws include sexual orientation,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love. This court joins five others that have ruled these laws also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We congratulate plaintiff Kimberly Hively, Lambda Legal and all the attorneys who helped achieve this victory.”

The Hively case stems from a lawsuit brought by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively, who alleged  that Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend did not offer her a full-time position because she is a lesbian. She was represented in the case by Gregory Nevins of Lambda Legal.

HRC holds the view that Title VII protects LGBTQ employees. Three successful legal efforts — all led by Lambda Legal — in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx in 2015. In that decision, the EEOC concluded that sexual orientation “inherently” involves sex-based considerations, and so sexual orientation discrimination claims are “necessarily” claims under Title VII.

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