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Action Alliance ‘deeply disappointed’ with AG Jason Miyares over LGBTQ+ lawsuit

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Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence for more than 40 years applauds new federal Title IX Rule but rebukes Attorney General Jason Miyares for his lawsuit against LGBTQ+ student survivors.

The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) joins sexual assault advocates nationwide in commending the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for its recently published Title IX regulations that mark significant progress in our nation’s ongoing efforts to combat sexual violence, harassment and discrimination in schools and on college campuses.

However, the Action Alliance simultaneously denounces Attorney General Miyares’ decision to join a six-state-coalition lawsuit challenging the survivor-lead and student-centered revisions made to Title IX of the Educational Amendments.

“We are thrilled to see that the new Title IX rule reverses harmful regulations of the past and focuses on the critical need to expand access to safe, supportive learning environments for all students,” said Kristi VanAudenhove, Executive Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. “At the same time, we are deeply disappointed to see our Attorney General join the Tennessee-led lawsuit and undermine the fundamental right of every student survivor to access safety, justice and healing in the aftermath of violence.”

The new revisions to Title IX regulations not only protect all student survivors of violence and harassment, but also reverse regulations put into place in 2020 thanks to tireless advocacy from students, activists and sexual and domestic violence advocates and survivors. They also clarify that student survivors of sexual harassment and pregnant and parenting students as well as LGBTQ+ students have strong and comprehensive protections against discrimination in school. The new regulations are a critical step in restoring Title IX’s original promise of strong protections for student survivors by:

  • Requiring schools to address Title IX complaints even if the reported harassment is not yet severe and pervasive, it occurred off campus or abroad or the survivor is no longer enrolled at the school.
  • Ensuring that students are no longer forced into uniquely unfair and potentially traumatic grievance procedures that favor those who cause harm.
  • Ensuring that more students have access to the resources they need to feel safe and supported at school.
  • Guaranteeing the rights of LGBTQ+ students to come to school as themselves without fear of harassment or discrimination.
  • Reaffirming what many federal courts have already made clear: that LGBTQ+ are protected against sex-based discrimination.

“It is essential that students are safe in their educational environments and that they have fair recourse and ample support to protect themselves when they experience sexual harassment and violence,” said National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) CEO & President Monika Johnson Hostler. “NAESV applauds the release of the new Title IX rule with gratitude to the many students, survivors and advocates who fought to right the wrongs of the 2020 Title IX Regulation that left survivors of sexual violence vulnerable and unprotected.”

On Tuesday, Miyares announced that he entered Virginia into a six-state coalition lawsuit that disputes the federal DOE’s new Title IX rules. He claims that extending protections to LGBTQ+ students “would harm Virginia students, families and schools.” The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

“The new Title IX regulations make it easier for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and be heard,” said Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola. “It is important that all survivors are treated with dignity and respect as they attempt to hold their abusers accountable. I am disappointed that Virginia’s Attorney General is joining a coalition of states to oppose best practices in sexual violence response and prevention.”

The adoption of Title IX launched a tidal wave of progress for several historically marginalized populations in the United States. And throughout the years, revisions to the rule have continued to strengthen its promise of an education free from sex discrimination. Nevertheless, inequities in our nation’s educational systems persist, and rates of sexual harassment and assault in these environments remain unacceptably high. LGBTQ+ students are at least twice as likely to experience bullying, harassment, and sexual violence as compared to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts, just because of who they are. And countless women continue to see their education derailed because of pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual and intimate partner violence in school settings.

Miyares’ decision to join the multi-state lawsuit against DOE is an attack on LGBTQ+ Virginians and specifically, LGBTQ+ student survivors, according to the Action Alliance. Sexual and domestic violence is linked to other forms of violence and oppression and supporting the safety and dignity of all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, is integral to creating a Virginia free from sexual and domestic violence. With the release of the new Title IX regulations, the Action Alliance reaffirms the right of every student, including LGBTQ+ students, to access safe, supportive and violence-free learning environments.

The Action Alliance is a network of survivors, sexual and domestic violence agencies, and allies, who work to strengthen Virginia’s response to and prevention of sexual and domestic violence. The Action Alliance believes all individuals have the right to a life free of sexual and domestic violence.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.