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Slatery, most Republican AGs pen letter opposing USDA's updated LGTBQ+ discrimination protections

The USDA in May announced discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity would be prohibited. All but one Republican SAG is opposing the change.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee's Attorney General announced Tuesday he joined 25 other Republican AGs in other states to write a letter opposing updated federal anti-discrimination policies that extend protections to people in the LGBTQ+ community.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in May its Food and Nutrition Service department would interpret existing anti-discrimination laws found in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

This means any state that participates in programs run by the USDA, including school supplemental programs, would need to follow the new anti-discrimination policies that extend protections to the LGBTQ+ community.

It would prevent Tennessee and other states from enforcing recently passed anti-LGTBQ+ legislation in schools, such as anti-transgender athlete laws, without running the risk of losing millions in federal funding.

The USDA said the action was in line with the 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton, which extended anti-discrimination policies in the workplace to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The USDA also said the change would ensure its programs remain open to all.

“Whether you are grocery shopping, standing in line at the school cafeteria, or picking up food from a food bank, you should be able to do so without fear of discrimination,” said Stacy Dean, the Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “No one should be denied access to nutritious food simply because of who they are or how they identify.”

In the letter, Slatery said the USDA's anti-discrimination policies were an overreach of power by the executive branch. He also said he believed the Bostock v. Clayton decision was intentionally misread. In the letter, the AGs say that the decision only applied to Title VII, and not Title IX or the Food and Nutrition Act.

The letter written by Republican AGs says that by expanding "discrimination on the basis of sex" to include sexual and gender identity, the USDA guidance does more than offer guidance when faced with cases of discrimination. They said it would threaten "essential nutritional services to some of our most vulnerable citizens."

The letter was addressed to President Joe Biden and requested him to direct the USDA to withdraw the new guidance.

The only Republican AG not to sign the letter was John Formella from New Hampshire.

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