By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s top attorney and her counterparts in 25 other states on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to withdraw what they deemed an “unlawful” mandate linking school lunch funding to gender identity ideology.
Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill and the other attorneys general demanded a retraction from Biden of the policy that would require schools and other agencies receiving USDA funds to adopt rules against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
“By vastly expanding the concept of ‘discrimination on the basis of sex’ to include gender identity and sexual orientation, the (USDA announcement) guidance does much more than offer direction,” reads a June 14 letter to Biden and the USDA sent by by the attorneys general.
“It imposes new – and unlawful – regulatory measures on state agencies and operators… and the inevitable result is regulatory chaos that would threaten the effective provision of essential nutritional services to some of our most vulnerable citizens,” the letter said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 5 announced that all state and local agencies funded by its sub-agency, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), “must” update their non-discrimination policies to include new provisions for gender identity and sexual orientation.
Wyoming’s Department of Education falls under the mandate’s affected category, as it receives about $40 million per fiscal year from FNS. Cowboy State Daily had previously reported the figure at $90 million per year, however, that figure represented pledges over multiple years.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder and multiple Wyoming lawmakers rebuked the USDA following its announcement in the light of a court ruling in the case “Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.” In that case, the court found that labeling school bathrooms only as “boys” or “girls” was a form of gender identity discrimination.
But the USDA’s announcement itself deferred to Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects workplace employees from discrimination for being gay or transgender.
‘Flouts The Rule of Law’
Hill and the other attorneys general disputed the federal agency’s use of Bostock in this mandate, as the USDA framed its mandate as a reinterpretation of Title IX – a different portion of the Civil Rights code that was originally designed to support fairness in girls’ and women’s school sports.
Administrative Procedures Act requirements dictate that the government must afford the public the opportunity to comment when making substantive policy changes. But the USDA attempted to “circumvent” that safety net by masking a major policy invention as a mere “clarification,” the letter said.
“The (USDA) Guidance flouts the rule of law, relies on patently incorrect legal analysis that is currently under scrutiny in the federal courts, and was issued without giving the States the requisite opportunity to be heard,” the letter said.
“While we are always open to working with your Administration to resolve these matters, under the present circumstances we are constrained to ask that you direct (USDA) Secretary Vilsack and the (USDA) to rescind this Guidance.”
The letter also was signed by the attorneys general of Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Indiana, North Dakota, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, South Dakota, Montana, Utah, West Virginia, Virginia, and Texas.