Arkansas Governor Defies Federal Transgender Student Protections: A Battle for State Rights

Arkansas Governor Defies Federal Transgender Student Protections: A Battle for State Rights

On Thursday, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made it clear that the state will not adhere to a federal regulation aimed at safeguarding the rights of transgender students in schools across the country. Arkansas joins other Republican-led states in defying these new rules.

Sanders has signed an executive order affirming the continuation of restrictions on bathroom usage and pronoun usage for transgender students in Arkansas schools. However, these laws may potentially be affected by the new regulations regarding the enforcement of Title IX.

“We will not comply,” Sanders declared defiantly during a news conference held at the state Capitol, directed towards Joe Biden and the federal government.

Last month, a regulation was finalized to provide clarity on Title IX, a significant sex discrimination law passed in 1972 to address women’s rights. This law applies to schools and colleges that receive federal funding. It is clearly stated in the regulations that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited under Title IX. Sanders criticized the changes as a significant reinterpretation of the law.

Sanders’ decision aligns with the actions taken by a number of other states, such as Texas and Oklahoma, which have advised schools not to adhere to the new regulation. Lawsuits have been filed in federal courts in Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky challenging the rule. The various obstacles increase the likelihood that one of the states will be able to temporarily suspend the rule nationwide.

Sanders’ decision comes in response to recent actions taken by Arkansas that have limited the rights of transgender youth. An appeal has been filed by the state against a judge’s order that invalidated Arkansas’ pioneering prohibition on gender affirming care for minors. A lawsuit was filed by a group of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex residents against the state for its recent decision to disallow the use of “X” as an option for gender on state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

According to a statement from Megan Bailey, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, this act is a blatant disregard for laws that aim to prevent discrimination and a forceful assault on the rights and liberties of LGBTQ individuals in our state.

Sanders’ order urges the state education department to provide schools with clear guidance, emphasizing the importance of adhering to Arkansas law. Alongside regulations concerning restrooms and gendered language, the order also references Arkansas’ legislation that places limitations on the sports teams transgender athletes are allowed to participate in. The Biden administration has implemented new rules that aim to provide broad protection against discrimination based on sex. However, these rules do not specifically address the issue of transgender athletes.

Brandon Wolf, senior director of political communications and national press secretary of the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, expressed concerns about the potential consequences of the state’s refusal to comply, including a potential loss in funding.

“It seems that some individuals are willing to make sacrifices, but only if it benefits themselves and their political image,” stated Wolf.

Sanders emphasized the state’s determination to take legal action if any loss of funding occurs as a result of the new regulations.

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