After months of pressure from advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, a list of names of religious colleges and universities that are exempt from gender discrimination laws has been released by the US Department of Education.
Schools are required to follow Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972 in order to receive federal funding. The laws prohibit schools from discrimination based on sex, writes Carly Hoilman for The Blaze.
However, the law offers schools the ability to request exemptions if Title IX does not line up with their religious beliefs. Until now, the complete list of schools that have asked for and have been given these allowances has been kept private by the federal government.
Data from the Department suggests that as of April 1, a total of 232 institutions have received the exemptions, with 31 pending requests. Schools are provided waivers for rules against discrimination due to gender identity and sexual orientation in a number of areas including student housing, admissions, and employment, writes Melissa Korn for The Wall Street Journal.
The list does not go into detail concerning what exemptions each school had asked for, or if they had requested any changes to their waivers since they were given it.
Pepperdine University is one such school, having received a waiver in 1976 but then filing to withdraw the waiver in January of this year. The request was granted in a letter dated March 21.
While the school is affiliated with the Church of Christ, it is "committed to complying with Title IX," according to its request to withdraw.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT-rights organization, made a push to the Education Department to make the list public last December. At that time, the group knew of 56 colleges and universities across the country, enrolling a total of close to 120,000 students, which had made exemption requests since 2013.
A letter was also sent to then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan by eight senators including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. In the letter, the senators asked for additional transparency, arguing that there had been an increase in exemption requests lately.
"We commend the Department of Education for answering our call for greater transparency and helping to ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them," said HRC President Chad Griffin, noting "the alarming and growing trend of schools quietly seeking the right to discriminate against LGBT students, and not disclosing that information publicly."
Griffin went on to say that while the group does support religious liberty, "faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination."
Although it is not up to the Education Department to deny any exemption requests, the Human Rights Campaign is insistent that the government should still make it publicly known when one is granted.
"We at the Department of Education vigorously enforce Title IX's prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity, in every applicable school," said Press Secretary Dorie Nolt. "We are committed to protecting every student Congress gave us jurisdiction to protect, to the fullest extent of the law."