Published: June 24, 2021

CU officials are hailing last week’s Notice of Interpretation (PDF) by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights explaining that it will enforce Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity offered by a recipient of federal financial assistance. The department’s interpretation stems from a United States Supreme Court decision issued one year ago in which the court recognized it is impossible to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity without discriminating against that person based on sex.

“Today, the department makes clear that all students––including LGBTQ+ students––deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement on June 16.

Valerie Simons, CU Boulder’s Title IX coordinator and associate vice chancellor for Institutional Equity and Compliance, clarified this same interpretation has been part of Colorado’s civil rights protections and CU’s policies since the Board of Regents voted in 2013 to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity in CU’s antidiscrimination policies.

“We have been operating with this understanding for some time and it’s fantastic to see it reaffirmed through the federal guidance,” said Simons.

Simons said these kinds of protections are vital to any educational environment to support student success.

“There are many aspects of identity protected by law and policy and it is part of our fundamental mission as a university to ensure students have access to a place where they can live, learn and be fully engaged in their educational experience,” said Simons.

Morgan Seamont, who directs the Pride Office in the Center for Inclusion and Social Change at CU Boulder, also applauded the action.

“Having this clarity at the federal level creates the possibility for more support and recognition of these issues throughout our country with the hope that schools will become safer for all LGBTQ+ students,” said Seamont.

Seamont said CU Boulder is in a strong position to act on the USDE’s interpretation, given that the campus is ranked in the top 40 schools nation-wide for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, according to the nonprofit organization Campus Pride.

“While the federal recognition is important, CU's ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive community for LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff will make acting on that recognition an organic part of the work we are already doing,” Seamont said. 

Learn more about the events, services, support and education offered by the Pride Office at CU Boulder. Learn more about support and reporting options and skills for addressing harassment and discrimination, and other interpersonal violence and abusive conduct by visiting Don’t Ignore It.