Utah aims to block federal Title IX protections for transgender students in special legislative session

Gov. Spencer Cox is calling the Utah Legislature into a special session to use a new law to allege that updated Department of Education Title IX protections are unconstitutional.

The Utah Legislature will meet in a special session and attempt to use a newly passed law to block enforcement of new federal regulations aimed at protecting transgender students in schools. The special session is scheduled for Wednesday during the Juneteenth holiday.

In April, the President Joe Biden administration issued new guidelines under Title IX, which bars discrimination based on sex for any K-12 school, college or university that receives federal funding.

The new Department of Education rules, set to go into effect ahead of next school year on Aug. 1, expand the interpretation of Title IX to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The rules would require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, directly conflicting with a new state law requiring people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in government facilities that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed SB57, known as the Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, which created a process for the legislature to push back on federal laws and regulations they believe are unconstitutional. Under that process, lawmakers can pass a resolution declaring a federal action violates the U.S. Constitution. State officials would be directed to ignore or not comply with the federal mandate unless a court orders the state to comply.

Critics of SB57 say it conflicts with the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law overrides state laws when there’s a conflict. This will be the first time lawmakers will attempt to use the new law to nullify a federal dictate.

Since Utah’s transgender bathroom bill went into effect, a hotline for reporting violations has generated thousands of hoax complaints.

On Friday, a federal court temporarily blocked the new Title IX rules from going into effect in four states that sued over the new regulations, according to The Washington Post. In May, Utah joined a coalition of states suing over the new Title IX interpretation.

Also, during next week’s special session, lawmakers will consider changing a new law that could force Intermountain Power Agency to sell a coal-fired power plant to the state to keep it running instead of shutting it down next summer.

After lawmakers approved SB161, more than 15 local governments and organizations urged Gov. Spencer Cox to veto it, warning that it could lead to costly litigation and prompt a response from federal environmental regulators. Cox ignored those pleas and signed the bill into law.