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GOP engages in literal food fight over LGBTQ protections

The Biden administration said schools risk losing nutrition assistance funding if they discriminate against LGBTQ students. Republicans are suing.


The conservative movement is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to marginalize LGBTQ people. 

That explains the intensifying dispute between conservative state attorneys general and the Biden administration over — of all things — lunch. 

Back in May, the Department of Agriculture announced the Biden administration would interpret constitutional protections against gender discrimination, known as Title IX, to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The announcement advised schools to  “investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” and it warned schools that fail to protect LGBTQ students from disparate treatment run the risk of losing funding for their school nutrition programs.

This policy requires schools treat LGBTQ students like other students — nothing more, nothing less.

But Republicans have spent much of the past two years arguing that such anti-discrimination policies trample on their religious freedoms. Nearly two dozen state attorneys general have signed on to a lawsuit contending states should still receive funding for school food programs if they’re found to have permitted anti-LGBTQ discrimination against students. To make this claim, the attorneys say the Biden administration’s Title IX guidance is nonbinding because it didn’t receive public input, and they claim the administration is misinterpreting a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.  

Multiple attorneys general used their press releases announcing the lawsuit to push transphobic rhetoric. Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor got dramatic with it, claiming the policy amounts to a “radical” and “pro-transgender agenda.” He called the policy “another example of Biden bullying Americans by attacking our children,” an especially odd choice of words given the policy is literally meant to prevent trans kids from being attacked and bullied. 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost was another who got theatrical with his reaction, too. The policy, Yost said, is “literally converting carrots into sticks and using them to beat a political agenda into local schools.”

Republicans are telling on themselves here. Note: This policy requires schools treat LGBTQ students like other students — nothing more, nothing less. Republicans just don’t like it because they want the freedom to oppress these already marginalized groups. It’s an argument that rests on the dehumanization of LGBTQ youth — a twisted belief that these kids are unworthy of protection because they’re unwitting accomplices in a nefarious plot to push some sort of satanic agenda.

Of course, none of this is true. LGBTQ students aren’t in school to groom and gawk at their classmates. Instead, it’s conservative lawmakers who are obsessing over trans students, and whether (or how) they express their gender or sexuality.