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Steve Marshall: Biden using free lunches to push ‘genderlessness’ schools on Alabama

AL.com 10/7/2022 Savannah Tryens-Fernandes, al.com

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has again vowed to fight the Biden administration over new rules that seek to prohibit discrimination against transgender students at schools that receive federal food assistance.

In an op-ed published Thursday, Marshall said “the federal government’s ever-increasing control over primary and secondary education offends our American constitutional system. The root cause is coercion through federal funding, upon which states have been far too willing to blindly accept and jealously rely.”

Marshall joined attorneys general from 21 other states in a federal lawsuit in July against the Biden administration’s move.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in June it would interpret sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity and would require agencies that receive federal food assistance funds to update their policies to reflect that.

Alabama and the other states that sued say that means because they have regulations against transgender sports participation and because they restrict access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on biological sex, they could be at risk of losing federally funded programs including SNAP, WIC and school meal programs.

“These programs both tug at the heart strings and come with a hefty price tag for states, so the Biden administration has found them to be ideal vehicles for forcing genderlessness into our state governments, and more particularly, our public schools,” said Marshall in his op-ed.

Alabama lawmakers passed a bill that went into effect this school year to require public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the sex shown on their birth certificates. Supporters of the bill said it was to protect the safety and privacy of girls. Critics and families with transgender students said the bill is discriminatory and creates stigma and shame.

The first few weeks of this school year parents reported their transgender students being pulled out of bathroom lines and singled out in front of their classes. Others said their children had to take mental health days to cope with the negative experience resulting from the new legislation.

The bathroom bill includes an amendment that prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The state legislature also passed a ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors, penalizing the administration of treatments by up to 10 years in prison and requiring school personnel to inform parents if their child is questioning their gender identity.

Last year, Gov. Ivey signed into law a bill prohibiting public schools from allowing students to participate on sports teams that conflict with their biological sex as shown on their birth certificate.

However, the Alabama High School Athletic Association said at the time of the bill’s passage that it was not aware of any trans athletes participating in public school sports, and AL.com reached out to multiple school districts around the state represented by legislators who voted on the bathroom bill and none provided examples of recent incidents of students wanting to use a bathroom other than the one corresponding to their sex assigned at birth.

The USDA says its goal is to protect students from discrimination based on sex, which is a federal protection granted by Title IX.

“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 press release when the agency announced its policy in May.

In the lawsuit, Marshall and the other attorneys general argue that the USDA misapplied the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the agency cites.

“The guidance imposes new and unlawful regulatory measures on state agencies and operators receiving federal financial assistance from the USDA and thus threatens essential nutritional services for Alabama’s most vulnerable children,” Marshall’s office said in the press release.

Other states that sued are 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.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit al.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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