A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a directive that would threaten schools with an investigation if it prevented a student from joining a sports team or using the restroom or locker room that aligns with the gender they identify with.
District Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee said on July 15 that the U.S. Education Department’s guidance would prevent states from enforcing their own laws on bathroom access and girls’ sports as he blocked it.
“As demonstrated above, the harm alleged by Plaintiff States is already occurring—their sovereign power to enforce their own legal code is hampered by the issuance of Defendants’ guidance and they face substantial pressure to change their state laws as a result,” Atchley wrote.
The case began in 2021, when 20 attorneys general from mainly Republican-led states sued the Education Department over the guidance, saying it is an “erroneous interpretation” of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in schools.
The state officials also said that they were at risk of losing significant federal funding because the Biden directives conflicted with their own state laws.
Atchley, appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, concurred. He said in his order that the states “cannot continue regulating pursuant to their state laws while simultaneously complying with Defendants’ guidance.”
The Justice Department, the Education Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The three had earlier requested that Atchley dismiss the states’ lawsuit. He denied the motion in his July 15 ruling.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the ruling “is a major victory for women’s sports, and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in their school bathrooms and locker rooms.”
“I am grateful the court ruled for Oklahoma and stopped the Biden Administration from enforcing its outrageous reading of Title IX, to include gender identity as a protected class. I will continue to hold President Biden accountable and do everything I can to uphold the rule of law.”