Hutchinson: Proposed Title IX changes violate Arkansas law

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday a proposed change to the Title IX rule would "undermine" girls sports and "violate the letter of Title IX itself."

The rule proposed by the U.S Department of Education in June would require K-12 schools and publicly funded colleges and universities to protect students from sexually-based discrimination including on matters such as gender identity, the department said in a news release. The comment period ended Monday with more than 210,000 responses, according to the Federal Register.

The governor said in a news conference the rule would interfere with an Arkansas law he signed in 2021 that prohibited biological males from competing in girls' sports and would "interfere with common sense."

"We believe that every child in Arkansas should have a good education free of discrimination," Hutchinson said. "But at the same time we ought to manage these difficult issues at the local school board level."

Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key filed comments against the proposed rule change, Hutchinson said.

"These proposed amendments of the Biden administration not only fly in the face of well-established law but in the face of reason and the intent of Congress," Hutchinson said. "The state of Arkansas will not stand by idly while the federal government seeks to redefine the law to the detriment of women's sports and local decision making."

The DOE based its rule on a Title VII case, Bostock vs. Clayton County, which was an employment discrimination case. The two cases are not comparable, the governor said.

"The Department of Education has used their broad misinterpretation to threaten states with a loss of federal funding including funding for free and reduced lunches," Hutchinson said.

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also filed a letter of opposition against the proposed rule along with 16 other state attorneys general. They said the rule which is said to clarify sexual discrimination fails to "define the terms sex and sexual identity."

"Without definitions for these terms, the rule is vague, arbitrary, and capricious," the attorneys general said in their comment.

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