Elizabeth Warren condemns Republican plan to take free school meals away from LGBTQ+ kids

Elizabeth Warren raises a finger to enunciate a point while speaking.

Elizabeth Warren has shamed Republicans for behaving like “classroom bullies” in their attempt to deny LGBTQ+ children free school meals.

The senior senator from Massachusetts made the comments during a speech in the senate on Wednesday (1 November), where she branded the bill unjustifiable.

“We deal with a lot of complex issues here every day,” Warren said. “This is not a complex issue.

“[The bill] was never just about school lunches. The goal was to send a message to LGBTQ+ kids that they are not welcome. To send a message that it is OK to discriminate against these kids because of who they are.

“I want to be very clear: that is wrong. We proudly stand with LGBTQ+ kids, your rights matter, you are welcome at school.”

The joint resolution, sponsored by Republican senator Roger Marshall, would have nullified an anti-discrimination law, issued by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), that prevents schools withholding free meals on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

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The FNS created the policy following the Supreme Court’s decision on Bostock v. Clayton in 2020, which prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ people under civil rights legislation.

It issued an update to the policy in May this year, to include clauses on gender identity and sexual orientation protections for students, and it was this that Republicans attempted to rescind.

USDA policy will ‘help kids’ get the food they need

In her speech, Warren noted that the rule wasn’t “some strange new interpretation of the law” and was instead grounded in years of legal determination.

“This is the USDA implementing anti-discrimination laws that apply across government in line with the Supreme Court’s reading. This is what the Republicans attempted to overturn.”

The bill was killed at its first hurdle by a vote of 47-50 that was almost completely down party lines.

Two Republicans, Maine senator Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, broke ranks in last week’s vote while West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin registered his support.

Warren noted that the USDA policy would “help kids” get the best education they need, adding: “It will also reduce discrimination and bring agency guidance into line with Supreme Court precedent.

“The policy will ensure hungry kids get the food they need to grow and to do well in school.”

Manchin was also the only Democrat to vote against a bill to make abortion a federal right in May 2022, arguing that it was too broad.

Data from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organisation, published last year, found that 51 per cent of queer youth who have experienced housing instability also reported food insecurity, while 22 per cent who had experienced no housing instability had reported the same thing.

Following his bill’s failure, Marshall said that the USDA policy was being “weaponised” against children to “implement transgender policies.”

He went on to claim: “The USDA has no authority to force this on our children or the schools they attend, to adhere to woke mandates such as requiring boys be given access to girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.”