U.S. Dept. of Education’s Title IX clarification paves the way for inclusive transgender membership policies of fraternities and sororities

Campus Pride LogoUS Department of Education issues letter responding to the request by Campus Pride to clarify the role of Title IX on membership of social fraternal organizations, specifically for transgender members; Campus Pride offers training and assistance to inter/national fraternal organizations to educate members and adopt trans-inclusive policies

On December 16, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter clarifying the role of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972[1] (“Title IX”) on the membership practices of social fraternal organizations and on, specifically, the issue of transgender membership.
TitleXILetterIn requesting the letter, Campus Pride sought to dispel misconceptions about Title IX and about the U.S. Department of Education’s involvement in the membership practices of fraternal organizations, as well as to support the conversation already occurring within fraternal organizations regarding transgender membership. Over several weeks, Campus Pride through its Lambda 10 Project worked closely with attorney consultant Stevie Tran, who specializes in this area of the law, in drafting the initial request for clarification from the U.S. Department of Education. The letter was submitted on November 21, 2014 to U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon.

The U.S. Department of Education’s letter holds that, as long as a fraternal organization meet the express requirements of Title IX, “its membership practices are exempt from Title IX regardless of whether that organization admits transgender students.” The position of the U.S. Department of Education confirms the current interpretation of Title IX and its role on the membership practices of social fraternal organizations, in that Title IX has no role. Further, the U.S. Department of Education:

– Most importantly, reaffirms First Amendment principles and fraternal organizations’ right to associate and to determine its membership, including the right to make decisions regarding transgender students.

– Confirms recent interpretations of Title IX and its non-involvement with fraternal organizations’ membership practices.[2]

– Creates an immediate need for fraternal organizations to educate its board, staff, and membership on the issue of transgender membership.

Download U.S. Department of Education clarification letter.

Based on this important clarification from the DOE, Campus Pride strongly encourages all inter/national fraternal organizations to lead the conversation and take a inclusive stance regarding transgender membership.

Campus Pride, through its work, seeks to empower the fraternal community. Fraternal organizations should continue their conversations and education on this issue. Importantly, fraternal organizations should assert their First Amendment right to association by making clear where their histories, purposes, and values fall on the issue of potential transgender new members, transgender active members, and transgender alumni.   Campus Pride offers private, confidential training and assistance to any inter/national fraternity/sorority executives, officers, board, staff and, or volunteers.  A number of transgender researchers, legal professionals and fraternal members are available including Attorney Stevie Tran.  Please email info@campuspride.org or call 704-277-6710 to learn more.

[1]120 Cong. Rec. 39,993 (1974).

[2] See Stevie V. Tran, Note, Embracing Our Values: Title IX, The “Single-Sex Exemption,” and Fraternities’ Inclusion of Transgender Members, 41 Hofstra L. Rev. 503, 523-27 (2012). See also Stevie V. Tran, Transgender Membership in Fraternities & Sororities and Title IX, Campus Pride, https://www.campuspride.org/tools/transgender-membership-in-fraternities-sororities-and-title-ix/.

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