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Biden proposes rule for transgender student athletes that allows for some restrictions, opposes categorical bans

<i>Abbie Parr/AP</i><br/>President Joe Biden speaks at the Cummins Power Generation Facility in Fridley
Abbie Parr/AP
President Joe Biden speaks at the Cummins Power Generation Facility in Fridley

By Sam Fossum and Devan Cole, CNN

The Biden administration proposed Thursday a new federal rule change that would allow for schools to enforce some restrictions on transgender student athletes, but opposes policies that “categorically” ban those students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender.

“The proposed rule would establish that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity just because of who they are,” according to a public notice from the US Department of Education.

“The proposed rule also recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation,” it continued.

The rule change comes as GOP-led states across the country continue to push a variety of anti-trans measures, including bills intended to keep transgender students from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. Biden has consistently spoken out against such efforts, but Thursday’s announcement represents the most significant action yet that his administration has taken to combat them.

Still, the reaction from LGBTQ advocates was mixed, with some groups saying the proposed guidance doesn’t go far enough.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized that “being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages.”

“Today’s proposed rule is designed to support Title IX’s protection for equal athletics opportunity. We welcome and encourage public comment on the proposed regulation and will continue working to ensure Title IX’s effective protection for all students,” he said in a statement.

The rule, according to an Education Department news release, would provide a “framework” for developing eligibility criteria.

“For older students, especially at the high school and college level, the Department expects that sex-related criteria that limit participation of some transgender students may be permitted, in some cases, when they enable the school to achieve an important educational objective, such as fairness in competition, and meet the proposed regulation’s other requirements,” according to a summary of the proposed rule.

The proposed rule will have 30 days of public comment before going into effect.

Among the LGBTQ advocacy groups that expressed skepticism of the announcement was Lambda Legal, which said it was “concerned about whether the proposed rule can properly eliminate the discrimination that transgender students experience due to the pervasive bias and ignorance about who they are.”

“Given the importance of the opportunity to participate in athletics to students’ educational experience, we look forward to submitting comments and working with the administration to further remove those remaining bigotry-based barriers to full and equal participation by transgender youth,” said Sasha Buchert, the group’s senior attorney in a statement.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said in a statement that “every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect” and suggested “the new rule should be clarified to ensure that all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.”

A slew of states have put anti-trans sports bans on their books in recent years, including Kansas, where state lawmakers enacted a ban on Wednesday by overriding a veto from their Democratic governor. In 2022 alone, eight states enacted similar sports bans.

In pushing such measures, conservatives have argued that transgender women and girls have physical advantages over cisgender women and girls in sports, though a 2017 report found “no direct or consistent research” on any such advantage.

This story has been updated with additional details Thursday.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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