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Ohio AG joins lawsuit over rules on LGBTQ discrimination and school lunch programs

Africa Studio

Republican Dave Yost is one of 22 attorneys general suing the federal Department of Agriculture over the impact new rules on discrimination could have on school meal programs.

The USDA said in May that schools and other entities getting food and nutrition program funding must investigate claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The AGs claim in their lawsuit that these rules are an illegal mandate, and could threaten school meal programs.

“This is classic federal policy – literally converting carrots into sticks and using them to beat a political agenda into local schools,” Yost said in a statement on the AG's website. “When will the Biden administration learn that making law is the legislature’s role?”

Maria Bruno is the public policy director for the state's largest LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Ohio. Bruno said the federal lawsuit seems to argue it’s OK to discriminate against LGBTQ kids and others in a USDA food program that provides meals to hungry schoolkids.  

“We're living in an era where people will find any benign excuse to make a political production, and I think that this lawsuit is a piece of that strategy," Bruno said.

And Bruno added that standard USDA guidance is a normal function of that agency.

"We're living in an era where people will find any benign excuse to make a political production, and I think that this lawsuit is a piece of that strategy," Bruno said. "It's almost hard to answer the questions about the legal precedence, because to me, it is so clear, and so it's like trying to force politics into legal analysis, and that's just not what any of us are here to do."

Yost called the language “detrimental and onerous” and says it wasn’t authorized by Congress. And he says it could lead to withholding federal dollars if schools don’t go along with federal rules on transgender students’ access to bathrooms and sports.  

Yost was among the 20 AGs who filed suit last August over the Department of Education's extension of protections against LGTBQ discrimination. That suit said the guidance “directly interferes with and threatens Plaintiff States’ ability to continue enforcing their state laws”, including those on banning trans athletes from girls' sports and banning trans people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Ohio doesn't have either of those laws, but a proposal to ban trans athletes from women's and girls' sports was tacked onto a billthat passed the House in a late night session in June, with only Republican support.

That guidance was blocked by a federal court last month.

Yost has joined Republican attorneys general in suing over other Biden administration policies in the past.

There was a split decision in the lawsuit over vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and federal contractors, with the US Supreme Court saying the Occupational Health and Safety Administration could mandate vaccines for healthcare workers but not private contractors.

And Yost won his case over limits set by the Treasury Department that said states couldn't use federal COVID relief dollars for tax cuts. Ohio used some of the $11.2 billion it received to back up a 2% income tax cutin the current budget.

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