Following a push from US Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Department of Education has published on its website the names and applications of schools seeking religious exemptions under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).
In January, the Department of Education agreed to publish the names and applications along with a search tool to allow students and parents to find schools that have requested religious exemptions. The announcement followed a letter from Wyden and Murray calling for greater transparency for students and more accountability for schools after a recent rise in the number of colleges and universities seeking religious exemptions from Title IX – the law that protects students from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Senators Al Franken, D-Minn., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., also signed the December letter.
“Everyone should have the right to get an education at a school that respects and protects their core rights to be who they are and love who they want,” Wyden said. “Today, the Department of Education is helping students and parents get all the facts before they decide where to invest their higher education dollars.”
Critics of the US Democrat Senators have said that their desire to list the schools is a subtle attack on religious freedom.
“I applaud the Department for increasing transparency for colleges and universities that take taxpayer dollars and seek to opt out from protecting LGBT students and women from discrimination,” Murray said. “I’ll continue to work toward greater accountability to make sure all students have access to a safe learning environment, free from the threat of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
In 2014, the Department of Education issued guidelines making it clear that transgender and gender nonconforming students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Following the issuance of the department’s guidance, the rate of schools seeking exemptions increased dramatically from only one school in 2013 to more than 43 schools in 2015, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).