Tenn. state universities advised to table LGBTQIA protections after court ruling

Letter sent to universities is not requiring action but is advising of possible repercussions.
Lawmakers sent letters to State Universities recommending the removal of LGBTQIA protections under Title IX.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 9:52 PM CDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Aug. 22, letters were sent to 11 Tennessee state universities advising them to revoke and/or remove any publications, policies, and website entries for which your institution is responsible that state or imply that LGBTQI+ students, etc., are a protected class under Title IX, according to the letter shared with WVLT News by State Representative John Ragan.

Ragan, a Republican from Oak Ridge, is the Co-Chair of the Joint Government Operations Committee.

”We have laws on our books which are in fact against what the department of education was putting out in their guidance,” said Ragan.

The State Rep. referred to a directive from the U.S. Department of Education instructing public institutions to provide protections for LGBTQIA individuals under the umbrella of Title IX.

A Tennessee District Court ruled that the Department of Education cannot require universities to provide such protections, prompting Ragan and the committee chairs to send the letter.

In the letter, he cited the state’s lack of laws protecting individuals who identify as LGBTQIA.

”The LGBT alphabet group that was cited by the department of education is mentioned nowhere in the Tennessee code as a protected class,” said Ragan. ”They’re no more protected against discrimination than plumbers, electricians, or anyone you can name in a category.”

While Ragan said he removed personal feelings from the letter and adds he was following the letter of the law, allies of the LGBTQIA community said the letter and its intent could cause serious harm.

”This is going to be so dangerous for people who are part of the community,” said Amiee Sadler, a University of Tennessee Student and gay woman.

Sadler pleaded to lawmakers to reverse course.

”We already face a much higher risk of suicide and depression and now in a place where we are to learn and feel protected they want to take that away, it’s just not safe,” said Sadler. ”Think about the people you love, there are very likely people you care about deeply who are part of the community who don’t feel safe sharing this information if you love them for who they are, don’t support this.”

WVLT News reached out to the University of Tennessee System for comment.

Officials with the system sent WVLT News the letter President Boyd responded to Ragan’s letter advising the system had not provided resources under the Department of Education guidance, adding the system is still within state laws.

Ragan added Universities that do not follow state law are at risk of possible lawsuits, and the possibility of being dissolved, however, he emphasized those are hypotheticals and are not a blanket result.