Red states sue to deny LGBTQ kids free school lunch

School lunch

22 Republican-led states sued the USDA over guidance issued earlier this year directing schools not to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students when offering free or reduced-cost meals.

The challenge, led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, claims that the federal government is attempting to force states and schools to follow anti-discrimination requirements that “misconstrue the law.”

The Department’s Memoranda and Final Rule concern highly controversial and localized issues of enormous importance to the States, their subdivisions, affiliates, and citizens. The Department has no power to settle such issues, let alone by executive fiat without providing any opportunity for public comment.

The states contend that they “do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity” then add, “But the States do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose—obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns.”

The USDA does not have authority over student athletics or pronouns. As the agency told Politico, it would only enforce the rule for discrimination that was directly tied to the school lunch program. So the states are challenging a rule that only ensures that LGBTQ+ students have equal access to food at school.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia joined Tennessee in the lawsuit, hoping to build on the state’s recent anti-LGBTQ+ victory in court. Less than a month ago, U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr. (a Trump appointee) issued a temporary injunction that prevents federal agencies from implementing a wider anti-discrimination policy.

Title IX

Florida’s Education Commissioner ordered schools to disobey federal LGBTQ+ protections, arguing that the U.S. Department of Education has no legal right to “expand the application” of Title IX.

At the end of last month U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced a slate of changes to the Title IX, including extending the protections to transgender students. “As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation’s students — no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love — can learn, grow, and thrive in school,” Secretary Cardona said at the time.

Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. informed all public, private, and charter schools in the state last week that he considers that guidance “not binding law” and said it “should not be treated as governing law.”

Specifically, for example, nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms…or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams. To the extent that you do any of these things, you jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law…

The Department will not stand by idly as federal agencies attempt to impost a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students.

Outing students

A school district in Florida is requiring transgender students to out themselves to their parents in order to have teachers and staff use their preferred name and pronouns.

Transgender students at Lee County School District will have to fill out a form with a school counselor called a gender support plan, and it will have to be signed by their parents, raising privacy concerns among advocates.

Parent Crystal Czyscon called the document discriminatory and frightening.

Czyscon was among the parents objecting to the form that asks some very personal questions like does the student have support at home and who knows about the student’s gender and it even asks for a plan if the student is outed.

School officials say the form is necessary to comply with Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law that already stigmatizes LGBTQ+ people and isolates LGBTQ+ kids.

Drag shows

Gov. DeSantis, meanwhile, is targeting a Florida restaurant that holds family-friendly drag show brunches.

The Governor’s complaint against the R House, a Miami-Wynwood establishment, stated the shows are conducted in the presence of minors and “corrupts the public morals and outrages the sense of public decency.”

“We said wait a minute, having kids involved in this is wrong,” DeSantis said. “That is not consistent with our law and policy in the state of Florida and it is a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people. That is not the way you look out for our children, you protect children, you do not expose them to things that are inappropriate.”

According to NBC News:

The complaint alleges that R House has violated state public nuisance law by becoming “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.” The department also cites a 1947 Florida Supreme Court decision that found that “men impersonating women” in the context of “suggestive and indecent” performances constitutes a public nuisance.

As a result, the business could lose its liquor license and ultimately be forced to close down.

“R House is an important institution to the Miami LGBTQ community and one of our most respected LGBTQ-owned small businesses. For years they have been an anchor of the internationally recognized Wynwood Arts District and have long been an inclusive space dedicated to bringing people together,” Joe Saunders, Equality Florida Senior Political Director and a Miami local told the Blade in an email. “We understand that their team is in receipt of the complaint and will be engaging with the State to understand the best path forward. We stand ready to support them, their LGBTQ staff, and our community at-large as we navigate a political environment made toxic by the governor and his political ambitions.”

Library books

Residents of the small town of Vinton, Iowa, harassed their library’s LGBTQ+ staff so much that many quit, forcing the closure of the library for the first time since 1904.

Located about 40 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the town of Vinton is only home to about 5,000 people. Locals vocally opposed two successive library directors for hiring LGBTQ employees and stocking LGBTQ-friendly books.

In the months that followed, there were a series of library board meetings where residents who spoke during public comment sessions criticized LGBTQ-themed book displays in the children’s section. Jimmy Kelly, chair of the Vinton Public Library Board of Trustees, said residents complained about book displays and demanded they feature more religious books that oppose queer and trans identities.

“Basically these people said ‘Hey, these materials on display… we want either to be notified of what books are going to be read during the storytime or, you know, show balance in book selection,” Kelly told Motherboard. “[Residents said] if the library has a book talking about the variety of different genders, the library should also have a book talking about how God created men and women from the start.’”

The complaints were not just about books, however. During public comment, Kelly says that residents also complained about having to see employees “dressing outside their identifiable gender.” In one letter obtained by Motherboard, a resident accuses the library of a “subtle, but noticeable display of the LGBTQ agenda” in its book selection, and describes trans and gender non-conforming employees as “cross-dressing” while on the clock.