The U.S. Department of Education will create an online search tool that will allow the public to see which colleges and universities have sought religious exemptions from Title IX, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon wrote Wednesday.
The Education Department has argued that Title IX’s nondiscrimination protections apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. But the law also provides an exemption for religiously affiliated colleges and universities that request it.
Advocacy groups and some federal lawmakers called on the agency to make a list of campuses with such exemptions public to inform LGBT students’ college choices.
“In recent years, the Department has received an increasing number of requests for religious exemptions from Title IX,” Lhamon wrote in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
Lhamon said she plans to publish requests for exemptions and her agency’s responses online “sometime in the coming months.” The decision is part of the agency’s overall commitment to transparency, she added, noting that the office for civil rights has already posted civil rights resolutions online.
“To help schools meet their obligations under Title IX, the Department has clarified that Title IX protects all students, including LGBT students, and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender nonconformity,” Lhamon wrote.
Some have disagreed with the department’s interpretation of Title IX. Cases related to the issue on the K-12 level are currently pending in state and federal courts.
LGBT rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, praised Lhamon’s decision.
“We have been alarmed by the growing trend of schools quietly seeking the right to discriminate against LGBT students, and not disclosing that information publicly,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the Department of Education is answering our call for greater transparency to help ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.