Baylor University Exempt From Title IX LGBTQ+ Sexual Harassment Protections

The Department of Education confirmed that the Baptist university is exempt from several provisions of Title IX, including anti-LGBTQ+ harassment.
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  • Baylor University wanted to dismiss several LGBTQ+ discrimination complaints under Title IX, the federal law that protects against discrimination based on sex at federally funded institutions.
  • The U.S. Department of Education granted Baylor an exemption to Title IX regulations around discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The Baptist university says certain provisions of Title IX are inconsistent with its religious beliefs.
  • The school exclusively recognizes heterosexual marriages and expects its students to not advocate "understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching."

The U.S. Department of Education granted Baylor University an exemption from sexual harassment protections under Title IX after students filed complaints alleging LGBTQ+ discrimination.

Baylor University President Dr. Linda A. Livingstone first contacted the Department of Education in May seeking the dismissal of several Title IX discrimination complaints against the school by LGBTQ+ students, including one allegation of homophobic harassment, according to The Texas Tribune.

The letter also mentioned two other complaints, including the university's refusal to recognize an official LGBTQ+ student group and that the school pressured university-affiliated media not to cover LGBTQ+ student events and protests.

Because the Baptist university doesn't support same-sex relationships and sexual conduct due to its religious beliefs, Baylor argued Title IX's protections against sexual harassment infringed on its rights.

Title IX does not apply to religious educational institutions when the law conflicts with the organization's religious beliefs or practices. However, universities must abide by all other tenants of the law, according to the Department of Education.

In her response to Livingstone, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon listed the Title IX provisions Baylor was exempt from, including regulations prohibiting sexual harassment, "to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University's religious tenets."

In 2021, the Department of Education expanded the interpretation of Title IX, the federal rule that protects against discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities in federally funded schools, to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"As a religiously controlled institution of higher education, the University prescribes

standards of personal conduct that are consistent with its mission and values," Livingstone wrote.

"The University does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression per se, but it does regulate conduct that is inconsistent with the religious values and beliefs that are integral to its Christian faith and mission."

Although Baylor is a private Baptist university, operated "within Christian-oriented aims and ideals of Baptists," the school does not require "religious conformity," according to Livingstone, but rather "expects the members of its community to support its mission."

Part of that mission is the "biblical understanding of human sexuality," which exclusively recognizes heterosexual relationships. Baylor expects students to "not participate in advocacy groups that promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching," according to the school's statement on human sexuality.

"Any asserted Title IX requirement that Baylor must allow sexual behavior outside of marital union between a man and a woman, or that contradicts the Baptist doctrine of marriage and the created distinction between men and women, is inconsistent with Baylor's religious tenets, and the University is exempt from such requirement," Livingstone wrote.

However, the exemptions do not grant Baylor full immunity from Title IX — just certain provisions.

"In the event that [the Office of Civil Rights] receives a complaint against your institution, we are obligated to determine initially whether the allegations fall within the exemption here recognized," Lhamon said.