US: Religious college that denied trans student housing granted discrimination law exemption

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An Oregon religious college that refused to provide on-campus housing for a trans student has been granted an exemption from an anti-discrimination law.

It emerged in April that trans student Jayce Marcus had his application for housing rejected by George Fox University, which segregates students based on gender.

At the time, the school said he would not be allowed on-campus housing based on the school’s “theological and philosophical statement”.

Attorney Paul Southwick had filed a complaint on Marcus’ behalf under education anti-discrimination law Title IX, but this week told PQ Monthly that the complaint has been rejected because the school gained a ‘religious freedom’ exemption to the law.

He said: “George Fox University (GFU), without telling us, requested a religious exemption to the Title IX regulations regarding housing, restrooms and athletics as they apply to transgender students.

“GFU requested this exemption from the US Department of Education (ED) a mere three days before denying Jayce’s final appeal to the university and a mere four days before Jayce filed his complaint with the ED.

“The ED granted the request for the religious exemption with surprising speed – only two months, rather than the years it has taken historically to get an exemption. Based on the exemption, the ED closed Jayce’s complaint. ”

Southwick added: “We are going to appeal the ED’s ruling.”

The Department of Education first confirmed in April that discrimination against transgender students is prohibited under Title IX – an existing anti-sexism policy from the 1970s.

Barack Obama claimed last month: “The fact that we are applying [Title IX] to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated [against] on their college campuses, and that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.”

There is growing concern about the strength of religious exemptions to laws, following precedent set by the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling last month.