Town hall addresses Title IX inclusion of gender identities

By MACKENZEE SIMMS | Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – People from both sides of the political aisle packed into the North Shelby Library on Monday, July 1 for a town hall meeting addressing new Title IX revisions which incorporate protections for LGBTQ+ and transgender students.

Sponsored by conservative political organizations Moms for Liberty of Alabama and LOCAL Alabama, the town hall featured a panel speakers that included Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Rep. Susan DuBose and Matt Sharp from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

At the end of the speeches given by the panelists, the audience could write down questions on cards. The cards were then screened and the approved questions were directed towards the speakers.

According to Emily Jones, the chapter chair for the Moms of Liberty chapter in Madison County, the purpose of the town hall was to educate community members about revisions to Title IX recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education.

“(Moms for Liberty) focuses a lot on educating parents on what their rights are and how to protect them,” Jones said. “This Title IX town hall is exactly that—educating parents on what this actually means.”

Enacted in 1972, Title IX protects people from sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. In addition to addressing discrimination in recruitment and admissions, the scope of Title IX also includes sex-based harassment, sexual assault and athletics.

On April 19, 2024, the U.S. Department of Education revised sections of Title IX to reinforce safeguards for victims of sexual assault and to incorporate protections for LGBTQ+ and transgender students.

Although the new revisions update large swaths of Title IX, the town hall speakers specifically aimed to address the new definition of sexual discrimination to include gender identity discrimination. The speakers also denounced that Title IX’s new rules prohibit policies which prevent students from participating in educational programs consistent with their gender identity.

At the town hall, DuBose shared her belief that these changes will occur to the detriment of cisgender women.

“We have had over 50 years of progress with Title IX that the Biden administration wants to eliminate by redefining sex to include gender identity,” DuBose said. “By claiming that Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the Biden administration’s rewrite will try to force schools to let men who identify as women take women’s scholarships and invade women’s private spaces, including athletic teams, locker rooms and single sex dorms.”

If the Title IX updates proceed as planned, the changes would go into effect on Aug. 1, 2024, but the regulation has been temporarily blocked in several states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is hopeful that Alabama will be able to join the list of states blocking the new Title IX changes on the grounds that the new rules supposedly would invalidate two Alabama laws in regards to bathrooms and athletics.

“We feel confident in where we are,” Marshall said. “We feel confident in the fact that the judge will rule in our favor… Not only do we think that the rulings in Louisiana and Kentucky for multiple states are persuasive and compelling, we think that Alabama has an even stronger case.”

After the town hall, one member of the audience, Connor McGarty, shared his opinion that focusing on the issue of trans people in sports is just an excuse to block LGBTQ+ protections.

“I think it’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that these people want to use athletics as a cudgel to basically enforce their own ideas of gender rigidity and ideology,” McGarty said. “They like to use athletics as a cut and dry example to try to stop people from expressing themselves as they see fit.”

According to DuBose, the legislation that she is working toward to “preserve single sex spaces” is in no way meant to strip rights away from trans individuals.

“I want to be clear that in none of this legislation are we taking away rights or erasing rights,” DuBose said. “In Alabama, all people are welcome.”

Despite this, DuBose claims that how someone identifies has no impact on sex.

“It is an act of courage to say that sex is fixed, and that there are only two sexes, male and female,” DuBose said. “Gender identity is not the same as sex. There is a difference between a male and a female and it is determined at birth and created by God.”

DuBose argues that the new Title IX rules which prohibit gender based harassment will harm students that refuse to use pronouns and names consistent with a student’s gender identity.

“I don’t want students to be forced to tell a lie by using pronouns they know are incorrect by every standard both scientifically and biblically,” DuBose said. “In Alabama, we will not exchange truth for a lie.”

Speaker Matt Sharp with the Alliance Defending Freedom believes that if the new rules clarify that refusing to use preferred pronouns would constitute gender-based harassment, then it would be a First Amendment violation.

“I know we’ve got different views in this room, but at the heart of freedom is the ability to not be forced by the government to say something you disagree with,” Sharp said. “That’s what we’re standing for.”

Sharp used the allegory of a teacher getting in trouble professionally for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

After the town hall, McGarty argued that this example didn’t apply to the freedom of speech. McGarty emphasized that just because it’s legal to say whatever you want at work under the First Amendment, you may still face repercussions for your actions.

“They’re talking about free speech in a context that doesn’t apply,” McGarty said. “Teacher employment contracts don’t apply to free speech. You can’t go into a school and say whatever you want and expect no repercussions. I just think that it’s pretty obvious what their tactics are to shut down other ways of living and thinking.”

Once the speakers were finished with their presentations, the audience was able to write down questions on note cards. These cards were screened by the event hosts and the approved questions were directed to the panel.

Another audience member, Janelle Samson, expressed frustration at this question and answer format because she believed it created an unequal representation of the opinions being expressed.

“I thought it would be more of a discussion,” Samson said. “I thought that everyone would have an equal say or at least some people would get to share an opinion that was not the people who rented out the space. I thought it was going to encourage discussion and it didn’t seem like that at all.”

At the end of the night, many audience members shared that they found the town hall informative, such as audience member Sandy Lauriello.

“We got a lot of answers,” Lauriello said. “Everybody is wondering what’s going on, what is Biden doing, what are the schools doing? We really just want our children to be safe. That’s what it’s all about—coming together and learning. It makes a difference.”

Another audience member, the Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Joan Reynolds agreed that the event was informative and an important lesson in federal overreach.

“I think it was really informative and I think it was something that everybody really needed to hear,” Reynolds said. “I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got to continue fighting against the encroachment of the federal government.”

The speakers at the North Shelby Library town hall will reconvene for another presentation on the same topic on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Guntersville Recreation Center in Marshall County, Alabama.

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