A Massachusetts congresswoman has introduced legislation to require the government to publish the names of colleges and universities that request religious exemptions to federal regulations that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) unveiled the Transparency in Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Act May 2 requiring the publication of information relating to religious exemptions to Title IX, a Department of Education policy that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
Dozens of schools have requested an exemption that allows religiously affiliated institutions of higher education to adopt policies consistent with their articles of faith since the Obama administration changed Title IX in 2014 to prohibit discrimination “based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity” in an effort to combat student-on-student violence against LGBT individuals.
Schools such as Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., recently sought exemptions saying they do not intend to discriminate against anyone but are taking the advice of attorneys to clearly identify themselves as Christian institutions in order to strengthen their First Amendment rights in the event of a lawsuit.
Clark, a member of the U.S. House Equality Caucus, said her bill is intended to enable students and parents to make informed decisions about schools that reserve the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians in student admissions, financial aid, housing, sports teams and clubs before they arrive on campus.
“Students who are working hard and saving for college should not be in the dark about schools that intend to discriminate against them,” Clark said. While “religious institutions of education have the right to exercise faith,” the congresswoman said, her bill is “a commonsense proposal that ensures transparency and empowers students and parents to make informed decisions.”
“This important legislation will ensure that prospective parents and students have greater transparency, and no student unknowingly enrolls in an institution that intends to discriminate against them,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.