Lynn Fitch is joining 21 other Republican state attorneys general in suing the Biden administration over its sex discrimination policies, which they say put states’ funding for nutrition assistance programs at risk.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in May it would withhold funds from schools that do not follow federal guidelines in extending sex discrimination protections to LGBTQ individuals.
The new USDA policy is based on the Biden administration’s interpretations of federal anti-discrimination laws like Title IX that they include sexual orientation and gender identity. They could prevent schools that do not meet those standards from accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.
“Children and families in need rely on these programs for sustenance,” Fitch said in a news release. “This is not the place or time for President Biden to be playing politics and pushing an agenda far out-of-step with the American people.”
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The National School Lunch Program provides meals for almost 30 million students every day, according to the USDA.
In addition to Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia are suing the administration. The case was filed Tuesday in a federal court in Tennessee.
In their complaint, the state attorneys general say that any divergence from the policies, such as not using a student’s preferred pronouns, barring transgender students from participating in sports or preventing them from using the restroom of their gender identity, could put funding at risk for students who need programs like SNAP.
The USDA and Biden administration say their reading of Title IX is based on the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes discrimination “because of sex” and is therefore prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a May news release announcing the policy. “At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”
Fitch said the administration’s policies apply the Bostock v. Clayton County decision “very expansively,” and that it should not be used to back up the USDA policies on LGBTQ discrimination.