Republican AGs Sue for Schools' Right to Deny Free Lunches to Gay and Trans Kids

Jul 29, 22
Republican AGs Sue for Schools' Right to Deny Free Lunches to Gay and Trans Kids

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The lawsuit argues that the Biden administration went too far in asking schools with government-funded lunch programs not to discriminate against queer kids.

 

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Photo: Lisa Rathke (AP)

Twenty-two Republican state attorneys general are suing the Biden administration for requiring schools that accept federal funds for free lunch programs to comply with gender and sex non-discrimination rules. To put it plainly: These 22 state attorneys generals seem to think schools should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ kids who use the Department of Agriculture’s free lunch programs.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita lead the group, which includes Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on Tuesday.

This group contends that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has overstepped by “ignoring procedural requirements, issued directives and rules that misconstrue the law and impose unlawful requirements” on the states. Those new directives? In May 2022, USDA issued an update to states utilizing federal funds—say for the federally funded school lunch program—saying they must “update their program discrimination complaint processing procedures” to include complaints of sexual orientation and gender identity. If they don’t, the federal government could withdraw its funding of the program.

“Whether you are grocery shopping, standing in line at the school cafeteria, or picking up food from a food bank, you should be able to do so without fear of discrimination,” Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean said in May when announcing the policy.

The attorneys general insist the Biden administration doesn’t have the authority to demand this, drawing on conservative legal doctrine that the administrative state is a blight on all of us, and only Congress can make these rules. (Can you imagine if Congress—the group held hostage by Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—were responsible for every little move of a department under another branch of government?)

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