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landmark lawsuit challenGES discrimination against lgbtq students at religious colleges

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Elizabeth Hunter, et al. v. U.S. Department of Education 

Religious exemptions to civil rights statutes come at a price. The price is paid by the young and vulnerable who find themselves at the mercy of religiously affiliated, taxpayer-funded social service and educational institutions that often turn them away or force them into the closet. REAP’s lawsuit asserts the constitutional and basic human rights of LGBTQ+ students, seeking to end the sexual, physical and psychological abuses perpetrated under the religious exemption to Title IX at thousands of federally-funded schools, colleges and universities across America.

The Constitution guarantees equal rights for all Americans, holding space for religious belief and practice, while ensuring that religion does not serve as a government-funded vehicle to harm racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, religious or other minorities. Government action that ignores this central principal, including the religious exemption to Title IX, is unconstitutional and must be remedied immediately. 

 Timeline

June 9, 2021

A surprising court filing by the Department of Justice said the DOJ would “vigorously” defend the religious colleges and universities named in our lawsuit, claiming that they share the same goal. Shortly after REAP and our plaintiffs expressed disappointment, the DOJ amended the filing to remove the more extreme language and emphasized that the religious exemptions challenged by our lawsuit are now under consideration by the U.S. Department of Education

June 7, 2021

REAP files an amended complaint in our lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, adding seven new plaintiffs to our case and new constitutional claims. consideration by the U.S. Department of Education

June 7 - 11, 2021

Eight REAP plaintiffs shared their stories of discrimination with the U.S. Department of Education as a part of a virtual public hearing on Title IX protections. The plaintiffs who testified included Nathan Brittsan, Elizabeth Hunter, Rachel Moulton, Danielle Powell, Lucas Wilson and Audrey Wojnarowisch. In addition, REAP supporters from across the country sent more than 500 letters to the DoED, urging the Department to protect LGBTQ students at religious colleges.

March 30, 2021

REAP launches a historic, class-action lawsuit representing 33 LGBTQ students and alumni from religious colleges demanding that the U.S. Department of Education to stop granting religious exemptions to taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities that discriminate against and abuse their LGBTQ students. Learn more about the lawsuit and meet our plaintiffs here.

March 15, 2021

REAP, alongside College Pulse, launches a first-of-its kind report detailing the realities of discrimination and startling disparities in mental health outcomes for LGBTQ students at religious colleges. The report, which surveyed 3,000 students primarily at schools aligned with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, also found that 12% of students on these campuses identify as LGBTQ. Read the full report here.