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GOP Lawmaker Demands Tennessee Colleges Remove LGBTQ+ Protections

Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan
State Rep. John Ragan / Facebook

Republican state lawmaker John Ragan is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ views.

A state legislator in Tennessee is demanding that schools stop supporting LGBTQ+ students.

While federal litigation is underway, State Rep. John Ragan, the House chairman of the Tennessee Legislature's Joint Government Operations Committee has unilaterally ordered state universities to suspend policies that protect LGBTQ+ students.

Ragan wrote East Tennessee State University's president, Brian Noland, a letter in which he said the university could be breaking state law if it follows recent Title IX guidelines provided by the Biden administration. He said the university would be in violation since the U.S. Department of Education was enjoined by a federal court from implementing them recently, Tennessee Lookoutreports.

The letter gave East Tennessee State's president a deadline of September 2 to remove any publications, policies, and website entries that indicate LGBTQ+ students as being a protected class under Title IX.

In June, the Biden administration announced as part of the commemoration of 50 years since Title IX's passage that it would move to ensure that victims of sexual harassment, assault, or sex-based discrimination would receive crucial protections.

However, in July, a federal judge in Tennessee temporarily blocked the Biden administration's guidance to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, asserting it keeps states from enforcing anti-transgender laws.

ETSU spokeswoman Jess Vodden told the Tennessee Lookout on Monday that the institution's lawyers are evaluating the letter and have yet to respond.

Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders tells The Advocate that "all students, including LGBTQ students, have the right to an education free of discrimination.

"It is especially pernicious," he says, "that Rep. Ragan would attempt to micromanage our public universities whose mission is to serve diverse populations."

Sanders explains that many of Tennessee's universities have had inclusive policies since well before the new Biden administration guidance.

Sanders identified a potential opportunistic motivation of the Republican lawmaker.

"Perhaps Rep. Ragan relishes setting this matter up as a clash between the federal and state government, but caught in the cross-fire are the very students who need support as they pursue their education," Sanders says.

In the current political climate, the LGBTQ+ community has become a convenient scapegoat for conservatives and Republicans as the midterm elections approach.

"He has a long history of running anti-LGBTQ bills in the Legislature," Sanders warns. "So few will be surprised. We should all be dismayed, though."

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