South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) – who is widely believed to have presidential ambitions – promised to sue the Biden administration if a new Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule meant to promote trans equality in schools is accepted.
“President Biden is holding lunch money for poor Americans hostage in pursuit of his radical agenda,” Noem said in a statement yesterday. “He is insisting that we allow biological males to compete in girls’ sports or else lose funding for SNAP and school lunch programs. South Dakota will continue to defend basic fairness so that our girls can compete and achieve.”
Noem was referring to a rule proposed by the USDA last month that would put schools at risk of losing federal funding for free and reduced lunches if they fail to adhere to federal law requiring equal treatment of LGBTQ students, which includes allowing transgender students access to restrooms on par with cisgender students.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form—including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face.”
The USDA spends over $14 billion a year on the program and an estimated 29 million students benefit from it. Rules rescinding federal education funding are often used to require schools to follow federal law, and the USDA said that schools “who fail to comply will be in violation of civil rights laws and in breach of the agreements they signed in order to receive federal funds.”
Noem’s lawsuit, though, cannot even be filed before the proposed USDA rule is accepted.
Noem has spent her time in office attacking transgender equality and she has already started using her anti-transgender credentials to build a national campaign.
In February, she signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports, saying she was “grateful” to be able to sign the ban.
Several weeks prior, Noem released a national television ad that was entirely about the upcoming transgender sports ban, saying it was “the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports.” While the ad focused on Noem “protecting girls’ sports,” she didn’t mention anything she has actually done to help girls who want to play school sports, like increasing funding for school sports, fighting sexual abuse of girls in sports, or addressing the bullying of girls who play sports.
“In South Dakota, only girls play girls’ sports. Why? Because of Governor Kristi Noem’s leadership,” she tweeted.
Last year President Joe Biden signed an executive order that said that Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex in education included anti-LGBTQ discrimination since it’s impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity without taking sex into account.
Title IX includes school sports, and the Biden administration believes that banning a class of people from that part of education just because of their identity – as the South Dakota law does – runs afoul of the landmark civil rights law.
The Biden administration has already been involved in a lawsuit to overturn a transgender sports ban in West Virginia.