Karine Jean-Pierre
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22 GOP Attorneys General Sue USDA Over LGBTQ+ Non-Discrimination

Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares and Tennessee attorney general Herbert Slattery (right).

A lawsuit filed by more than 20 Republican attorneys general challenges the Biden administration over a Department of Agriculture policy prohibiting discrimination in the school lunch program based on sexual orientation and gender identity for school meals.

Tennessee attorney general Herbert Slatery filed the lawsuit claiming the federal government misinterprets the law on antidiscrimination measures.

Attorneys general hope this challenge will achieve a similar result to the one in which a federal judge in Tennessee temporarily barred two federal agencies from enforcing LGBTQ+ protections earlier this month.

The judge ruled for the 20 state attorneys general that the directives violated states’ rights, including state laws that prohibit students from playing on sports teams based on their gender identities as well as requiring schools and businesses to provide transgender students access to appropriate bathrooms and showers.

“This case is, yet again, about a federal agency trying to change law, which is Congress’ exclusive prerogative,” Slatery said in a statement to the Associated Press. “The USDA simply does not have that authority. We have successfully challenged the Biden Administration’s other attempts to rewrite law and we will challenge this as well.”

Virginia’s Jason Miyares is among the 22 attorneys general signed onto the lawsuit. He was elected in 2020 alongside rumored 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Glenn Youngkin during a campaign that focused mainly on parents’ rights and the non-existent bogeyman of critical race theory, a set of concepts taught in some law schools that analyze structural racism in the context of American life. Republicans claimed that schools were teaching white children to feel discomfort about their identities, leading some parents to become outraged.

“The Biden Administration is attempting to use the power of the federal government to force Virginia to choose between nutrition assistance for vulnerable children or advancing an extremist agenda,” Miyares’ office said Wednesday in a statement to VPM News. “The federal government is telling states that they must either pay for gender-neutral bathrooms and allow biological males to play women’s sports, or they will not receive nutrition assistance for needy children.”

The office said the federal government should not make these decisions.

Democrats in the commonwealth forcefully criticized the politician.

"Attorney General Miyares is despicable," Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Gianni Snidle wrote on Twitter. "This guidance simply ensures that students who receive a meal won't be discriminated against for who they are or who they love. He is attacking some of the most vulnerable and young members of the LGBTQ community."

As part of Title IX, which ensures equal rights for men and women in federally funded education, USDA officials announced earlier this year that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would be considered a violation. In addition to updating state policies and signage, the directive calls for investigating discrimination allegations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In its enforcement efforts, the federal government warned schools and states receiving federal funds, including the USDA’s national school lunch program. In addition to encouraging voluntary compliance, the agency plans to report violations to the Justice Department, but it is unclear whether funding for school meal programs will be suspended as part of its enforcement efforts.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision protecting gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination on the job under Title VII.

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