Betsy DeVos abandons LGBTQ students, won’t protect them from discrimination

In heated testimony, DeVos won’t budge.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Wals
CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Wals

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told a congressional panel Tuesday that she will do nothing to prevent schools from discriminating against LGBTQ students.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) asked DeVos about whether or not her department would continue to provide federal funding to schools that had anti-LGBTQ policies. At first she tried to dodge the question by asserting, “Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law.” But Merkley pressed, leading DeVos to say, “In areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle.”

Merkley continued to grill for DeVos for clarification, but she refused to comply. “You’re refusing to answer the question,” he said. “I think that’s very important for the public to know — that today, the Secretary of Education, before this committee, refused to affirm that she would put forward a program that would ban discrimination based on the LGBTQ status of students or ban discrimination based on religion.”

It was her second time testifying in as many months that she would do nothing to prohibit such discrimination.

DeVos’ gave a different defense for allowing anti-LGBTQ discrimination last month when she answered similar questions from Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). During that hearing, she explained that “state and local communities are best equipped to make these decisions and framework,” essentially giving her stamp of approval to schools that take a discriminatory approach.

But her response to Merkley was particularly telling given the department rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance that interpreted the law to extend protections to transgender students. By asserting that her office will issue no new “decrees,” she was essentially promising that her office will not take any steps to try to protect LGBTQ students and will continue to reward schools that discriminate against them with federal funding. If a student files a complaint alleging discrimination or mistreatment, she won’t draw any conclusions about whether they’re worthy of protection.

In other words, it’s actually worse than Merkley framed it. DeVos just made clear her department is abandoning LGBTQ students.