Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency on April 29 to ignore new Title IX rules aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination.

The Biden administration expanded Title IX—a 1972 nondiscrimination law—to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and pregnancy at federally funded colleges and K-12 schools.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Abbott argued the expanded rules exceed the federal government’s authority, calling them a “ham-handed effort to impose a leftist belief.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton also sued the Biden administration in an attempt to block the changes, which are set to take effect Aug. 1. Texas joins several other Republican-led states that have filed legal challenges to the policy.

What’s happening?

Abbott said the new rules undermine Texas laws barring transgender student athletes from joining teams that align with their gender identity in K-12 schools and public universities. The U.S. Department of Education does not directly reference sports in the updated regulations.

“​​Texas will fight to protect those laws and to deny your abuse of authority,” Abbott wrote in the letter.

The rules say schools cannot discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and employees, must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant students, and must offer support for people experiencing sexual violence and harassment.

“For more than 50 years, Title IX has promised an equal opportunity to learn and thrive in our nation's schools free from sex discrimination,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release. “These final regulations build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming and respect their rights.”

Paxton argued the changes would “put women at risk.”

“Texas will not allow Joe Biden to rewrite Title IX at whim, destroying legal protections for women in furtherance of his radical obsession with gender ideology,” he said in a statement. “This attempt to subvert federal law is plainly illegal, undemocratic and divorced from reality.”

Zooming in

In the lawsuit, Paxton said the Department of Education is “obstructing [Texas’] sovereign authority to enforce and administer its laws and by imposing substantial pressure on Texas to change its laws and policies.”

The changes to Title IX also conflict with policies in several Dallas-Fort Worth-area school districts—including Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Frisco ISD and Carroll ISD—that separate bathrooms and locker rooms by students’ sex assigned at birth.

Paxton filed the suit in a federal district court based in Amarillo. His office has been accused of “judge shopping,” or strategically filing cases so they are assigned to a judge who will be friendly to the state’s argument. The case will likely be heard by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a conservative Donald Trump appointee.

The Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets policies for federal courts, recently said judges should be randomly assigned to civil cases that “seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions.” However, judges in the Northern District of Texas, including Amarillo, said they did not plan to follow the conference’s policy.

What they’re saying

“​​Civil rights laws create a baseline of respect for our fellow Texans that allows us to peacefully exist with our neighbors,” Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said in a statement. “Paxton and Abbott want to ignore and undermine federal protections designed to safeguard students and families, including LGBTQIA+ students, survivors of sexual assault and pregnant students. These kids deserve safe spaces and support.”