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Arkansas gov. opposes federal guidelines protecting trans students under Title IX

Gov. Hutchinson and Attorney General Rutledge voiced their opposition to the federal guidelines protecting sexual orientation and gender identity under Title IX.

ARKANSAS, USA — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state's Attorney General Leslie Rutledge held a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 15, to discuss their opposition to the federal guidelines protecting sexual orientation and gender identity under Title IX.

In June 2022, the Biden administration announced proposed regulations for Title IX, including guidelines that "will strengthen protections for LGBTQI+ students who face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

“Title IX has been around for 50 years giving women equal access to athletics. Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s new rule proposed will take away those opportunities,” Rutledge said

The guidelines also include protections for pregnant students and employees from discrimination, among other directions that don't directly include transgender students.

However, Hutchinson stated that the protections for LGBTQI+ students would "interfere" with local and state education regulations, such as laws passed in 2021 banning trans girls and women from competing in school sports that align with their gender identity.

"Actually what the Biden administration is proposing leads to discrimination to girls in sports," Hutchinson said.

The Center for NWA Equality says the idea of discrimination against cisgender women caused by trans women playing women’s sports does not exist.

“Cis girls are assigned female at birth and continue to identify as trans girls and women are girls and women. So if in the interest of protecting girls and women and if you’re interested in protecting girls and women sports….I think it’s incredibly important to be interested in protecting the trans girls and women experience as women in sports,” Explained MeganTullock-Director of Programs at NWA Equality.

Megan Tullock says transgender kids face an extensive amount of discrimination that can lead to higher rates of suicide, for example, and believes this legislation would add to that.

“The feeling of having your existence be a topic of political discussion is uncomfortable for everybody on that spectrum…it’s been very challenging I think for parents of trans kids, for trans kids themselves,” said Tullock.

Act 953 or the Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports (GIRLS) Act, states that transgender women from an interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic team or sport that is expressly designated for females, women, or girls can't compete in interscholastic sports.  

Act 461 or the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, which has much of the same language as Act 953, allows students to have a "private cause of action" against a school if they are "deprived of an athletic opportunity" due to a transgender student participating in a female sport. 

"This rule defies common sense," Rutledge said on Thursday, referencing the LGBTQI+ protections from the Biden administration on Title IX guidelines. "This rule is contrary to law."

Rutledge says that the federal guidance was "undermining the accomplishments we have gained in access for women in athletics," and that it infringed upon free speech for schools.

Gov. Hutchinson went on to confirm that the department of education would not be adjusting its Title IX guidance to include implementing protections for students for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

RELATED: Federal court says Arkansas can't ban treatment of trans kids

He didn't comment on the state including the other amended protections offered by the Biden administration, such as protections for pregnant students and reinforced protections for victims.

Although Hutchinson opened the conference by stating, "Every child in Arkansas should have an education that is free of discrimination," when asked about opposing protecting students who are transgender, he said “I don’t believe it is discrimination" to tell transgender students "to go to the bathroom that's based upon your birth sex." 

Hutchinson went on to say Arkansas "wants our children to be safe and to not be bullied, we want them to have the opportunities to education and access to sports whether you're male or female."

RELATED: Gov. Hutchinson signs bill banning transgender girls from school sports in Arkansas

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