AG Kobach sues Biden administration over new federal protections for LGBTQ+ students

photo by: Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach announces at a May 14, 2024, news conference at the Statehouse his plan to sue President Joe Biden’s administration over federal changes in Title IX rules.

TOPEKA — Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach announced Tuesday he has sued President Joe Biden’s administration over the rewrite of federal rules to protect LGBTQ+ students.

Alaska, Utah and Wyoming partnered with Kansas on the lawsuit, which follows the U.S. Department of Education’s release in April of new guidelines to prohibit discrimination at federally funded schools.

Set to go into effect Aug. 1, the revised Title IX rules explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the revision, LGBTQ+ students who face discrimination will be entitled to a response from their school and can seek action from the federal government.

Kobach said the change would violate the First Amendment rights of teachers and school employees whose religious beliefs would prevent them from complying with the rule.

“It’s insanity,” Kobach said. “Biden’s Title IX rule is unconscionable. It’s dangerous to girls and women, and it’s against federal law.”

Explaining the 85-page lawsuit in a news conference Tuesday, Kobach focused on his assertion that transgender athletes shouldn’t participate in women’s sports. In 2023, Kansas lawmakers passed a ban prohibiting transgender student athletes from participating in girls and women’s sports. The state law could conflict with the new federal rules, although the federal revision doesn’t explicitly address transgender athletes.

“I can certainly tell you that if any of my girls are competing in sports against boys, that is going to make me very unhappy,” Kobach said.

The issue is whether cisgender and transgender girls should play together. When asked about his use of the term “boys” to describe transgender girls and women, and if he respected the transgender identity, Kobach said people had a right to change their appearance and presentation, but “the bottom line is that they can’t change the structure and other advantages that males gain.”

“Anyone who observes sports and observes the competition by these biological males in female sports has seen the obvious unfairness of it,” Kobach said. “The idea that someone should be punished or should be canceled by simply speaking what they have observed is really disturbing. It’s Orwellian if someone is canceled or punished simply for saying what they believe.”

Melissa Stiehler, advocacy director at Loud Light, a Kansas-based organization focused on LGBTQ+ rights and social issues, questioned Kobach’s motives.

“During his career, Mr. Kobach’s actions and legal theories have yet to show that he has the best interest of women and our legal protections at heart,” Stiehler said. “In fact, Kobach has actively sought to take away constitutional rights from Kansas women. With the experience of facing adversity as a woman, I fully encourage the AG to accept that transgender kids deserve protection from sex-based discrimination just as I received as a girl going through public school. Protection for trans kids doesn’t nullify any gains women and girls have made in our strides towards realizing equity.”

Kobach is part of a wave of attorneys general in red states that have scrambled to challenge the ruling since the publication of the revised guidelines. Legal counsel from Alliance Defending Freedom joined Kobach in the news conference. ADF is known for promoting anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

Civil rights advocates oppose the legal challenges to anti-discrimination rules.

“Kobach is claiming that he is standing up for girls and women,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the Kansas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. “But what he is really doing is continuing his decades-long crusade against our shared values and fundamental rights, using his misleading legal interpretations to try to transform the law into a tool that persecutes Kansans instead of protecting them.”

Reporters asked Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly about Kobach’s lawsuit after an unrelated news conference Tuesday.

“I wish that we would focus on issues that really make a difference in Kansans’ lives,” Kelly said. “I would suggest that that makes a difference in very few people’s lives, and not in a good way.”

Kobach’s lawsuit marks the latest stand in a series of anti-trans movements. Lawmakers passed a law in 2023 that bans gender marker changes on drivers’ licenses and birth certificates.

In this legislative session, lawmakers revived an effort to block teenagers from receiving gender-affirming care, such as hormones and puberty blockers. Senate Bill 233 also would have banned state employees from supporting “social transitioning,” which was defined to include the use of preferred pronouns. A Republican-driven effort to override Kelly’s veto narrowly failed in the House.


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