John King Slams Transgender Laws in NC and Mississippi

May 3, 2016

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. on Monday criticized recent state laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that restrict gay and transgender rights.

“They are hateful laws and they should be repealed,” King said in remarks at the annual conference of the Education Writers Association being held in Boston.

“The department’s guidance on this has been clear for a very long time,” he said, adding that the Obama administration has determined that “gender identify is protected by Title IX,” the federal law banning sex discrimination at institutions that receive federal funding.

North Carolina’s law requires that people in government buildings, including public colleges and universities, use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, not necessarily the gender with which they identify. The Mississippi bill, which Governor Phil Bryant signed April 5, goes farther -- it allows businesses, individuals and religious organizations to deny service to gay couples and transgender people if they believe providing service will violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Obama administration has said it is looking into whether those policies in North Carolina discriminate against transgender students in a way that violates Title IX, a finding that could jeopardize the state’s access to billions of dollars in federal money.

King did not comment further on the case, saying that he didn’t “want to get ahead of enforcement actions that we or other federal agencies may take with respect to North Carolina or Mississippi.”

Separately on Monday, 40 Senate Democrats called on the Education Department to further clarify its Title IX guidance regarding transgender students.

Citing the recent efforts by state legislators in places like North Carolina, the senators asked the Obama administration to issue “clear, comprehensive guidance” on transgender rights under federal law.

“In the face of ongoing legislative assaults on LGBT students, and transgender students in particular, we remain concerned that the Department of Education has not yet further clarified that schools permitting discrimination against LGBT students to continue unabated risk losing their eligibility for federal funds,” they wrote.

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