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A New Bill Aimed At Helping LGBTQ College Students Would Increase Transparency

Protesters call for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to veto House Bill 1523, which they says will allow discrimination against LGBT people, during a rally outside the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss., Monday, April 4, 2016.

CREDIT: AP/Rogelio V. Solis.

In an effort to increase transparency for LGBTQ youth who are applying or already attending religious universities, Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced a bill that if approved would require the publication of a list of schools that have applied or received religious exemptions from Title IX’s anti-discrimination rules.

“Students who are working hard and saving for college should not be in the dark about schools that intend to discriminate against them. While religious institutions of education have the right to exercise faith, the surge of discrimination disguised as faith is disturbing and deserves transparency,” said Rep. Clark.

The Department of Education has released a list of 56 colleges and universities that have, since 2009, petitioned and, or have been granted the exemption on the basis of religion. The schools include Baylor University, Brigham Young University, and Loyola University, among others.

As noted by The Huffington Post, one of the biggest issues that Congresswoman Clark finds with the exemptions being granted to these universities is that they are still benefiting from federal dollars even though they are discriminating against LGBTQ youth.

“That is the connection for Congress to make,” Rep. Clark said. “These schools are getting a waiver and subjecting their students to discrimination, but still accepting federal dollars.”

Brigham Young University recently made headlines for refusing to offer a student and survivor of sexual assault any protection on campus since her assault occurred off-campus. They also took their argument a step further by shifting the conversation away from how she was the victim of a crime, and instead focused on how she may have violated the school’s honor code.

Studies have found that LGBTQ students are at a higher risk of not only being sexually assaulted, but also being less included in conversations on campus on issues like campus sexual assault.

“[At least] 70 percent of LGBT students encounter sexual harassment at college from fellow students, faculty members and campus employees,” stated a study by the American Association of University Women.

Congresswoman Clark’s push for the legislation, formerly known as the Transparency in Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination Act, is especially timely because while the Department of Education has vowed to continue to reveal the names of these universities even without a formal law, a change in the administration at the White House could impact that decision.

“If Clark’s bill becomes law, it would mean the department has to keep disclosing the names of these schools beyond the Obama administration,” explains The Huffington Post. “It would also require schools that request Title IX exemptions to make it public on their websites.”

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