“The Plaintiffs seek safety and justice for themselves and for the countless sexual and gender minority students…” 

A group of LGBTQ+ students have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, due to LGBTQ+ discrimination at religiously affiliated colleges and universities. 

According to a report from The Hill, the suit was filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP).

33 current and former students have brought the suit to an Oregon federal court this past Monday. 

“Thirty-three Plaintiffs bring this class action suit to put an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s complicity in the abuses and unsafe conditions of LGBTQ+ students endure at hundreds of taxpayer-funded, religious colleges and universities,” the suit states. 

“The Plaintiffs seek safety and justice for themselves and for the countless sexual and gender minority students whose oppression, fuelled by government funding, and unrestrained by government intervention persists with injurious consequences to mind body and soul.” 

The legal filing also references Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs.

Currently, religiously affiliated schools are exempt from this law which has indirectly permitted these institutions to practice discriminatory behaviour towards their LGBTQ+ students.

Around 25 schools are listed in the suit.  

Baylor University students, Jake Picker and Veronica Penales, opened up about the lawsuit in an interview with 6 News

“Baylor is happy to take our tuition money and they claim that we are loved, the university loves us, and that we are welcomed on campus… yet the second we as students try to organise in any official capacity we are immediately shut down,” Picker stated.

With the impending suit, Penales hopes that change will be brought to religiously affiliated schools. 

“This has been an ongoing fight for the past 10 years. So Baylor has just kinda been silencing this issue for that long and I know this time, with this lawsuit, it’s going to be a little harder to keep quiet,” she said.

This suit comes shortly after President Joe Biden issued an executive order on International Women’s Day (March 8), calling for a discrimination-free environment within federally funded educational institutions. 

The President called upon the Biden administration to protect and ensure educational environments would be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and sexual orientation or gender identity, which includes the LGBTQ+ community.

“For students attending schools and other educational institutions that receive Federal financial assistance, this guarantee is codified, in part, in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” Biden ordered.

Related: Joe Biden signs executive order against LGBTQ+ discrimination in education