LA MIRADA – Dozens of LGBT rights advocates marched through the campus of Biola University on Tuesday, protesting the school’s recent request to opt out of federal mandates that protect LGBT students from facing discrimination.
Hoisting signs that demanded the university “Give Back Title IX,” Biola alumni, current students, and local activists admonished school administrators for requesting an exemption from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
The Department of Education mandate forbids sex discrimination in admissions, housing, financial aid, and athletics at any educational institution that receives federal funding. In 2014, the Obama administration extended Title IX protections to transgender students, meaning no federally-funded school can discriminate against students based on gender identity.
However, as a private Christian university controlled by a religious organization, Biola can apply for a waiver from that non-discrimination requirements if Title IX “conflicts with the religious tenets of its organization.”
“Accordingly, the university felt it was prudent and appropriate to request an exemption on this basis,” said the university in a statement on Wednesday. “Biola wants the ability to make decisions based on Biola’s theological understanding of gender and on a case-by-case basis in regards to transgender students, rather than Title IX prescribing how the university should make decisions.”
Demonstrators, nonetheless, say the university already made its decision when it agreed to take funding from the federal government, which now guarantees marriage equality and other LGBT rights.
Biola alumni Coley Baker believes this latest move by the administration will only devastate other transgender students like them.
“What I feared as a student was just put into writing,” said Baker. “I knew five transgender people who all left Biola because of the cultural fear Biola created. This exemption only reinforces that dishonesty and fear.”
Erin Green is the executive director of Biolan’s Equal Ground, a group of affirming LGBTQ students and allies at Biola University. With the help of LGBT faith and social justice group Soulforce, Green organized the demonstration, which ended in front of the school’s administration building.
“We’re asking Biola to give back Title IX. Apparently some sinners get protections and others do not,” she said addressing the crowd. “These rights should be granted no matter your gender identity, race, or sexual orientation.”
After nearly 90 minutes on campus, Biola officials asked protestors to leave and use the appropriate approval process to petition in the future.
Green said more demonstrations in conjunction with Soulforce are in the works to speak out against the Title IX exemption on the ninth day of every month.
“We have an audience of one. Just one person we’re held accountable to,” she said.