Polling: Oregonians split on Title IX laws for trans students
As the nation marks the start of LGBTQ+ Pride month and 50 years since the implementation of the landmark Title IX legislation, recent statewide polling shows most Oregonians say they support protections for gay and transgender students. Still, they're split on whether trans students should be allowed to participate in school sports that align with their gender identity.
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in schools and federally-funded programs and requires equal participation opportunities, regardless of gender. Historically, Title IX has helped ensure schools provide equal athletic facilities and practice time for boys and girls sports.
According to an Oregon Values & Beliefs Center survey conducted in May, 64% of respondents agree with the latest interpretation of the federal law, which extends protections to transgender students. Far fewer, however, agree with the full scope of the law.
Polling data shows 41% of 1,674 participants said trans students should be allowed to play on sports teams that match their gender identity. However, 39% said they should only be allowed to play on teams that align with their gender at birth. Another 21% said they had no opinion or didn't know.
OVBC noted a plurality of women support the gender-affirming policy, while men mostly comprised the group who said trans students should have to compete according to their birth gender.
Trans issues typically follow political lines, with 62% of Democrats supporting trans students being allowed to play on sports teams that match their gender identity and 74% of Republicans supporting restrictions to trans students playing on teams that match their birth gender.
The nonprofit public opinion research group also noted that those who are more familiar with Title IX tended to agree with allowing trans students to compete according to their gender identity. OVBC notes that the high percentage of unsure responses suggests it's an "emerging issue and opinions are still being shaped by media and thought leaders."
Last year, in response to several states attempting to enact legislation effectively barring transgender women from competing in women's sports, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the federal law, noting a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that laid the groundwork for its interpretation.
In a federal memo, the administration noted the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) "has long recognized that Title IX protects all students — including students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — from harassment and other forms of sex discrimination. OCR also has long recognized that Title IX prohibits harassment and other forms of discrimination against all students for not conforming to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity," the memo states.
Neither federal guidance, nor research that shows transgender and nonbinary students are at lower risk for mental health issues and suicidal thoughts when schools affirm their gender identity, seemed to sway public opinion much.
When asked whether knowing that studies link treatment of trans youth at schools with mental health and suicidality, 85% of respondents said they felt the same, that trans students should only be allowed to play on sports teams that align with their gender at birth. Another 13% said they were less certain of their opinion after learning about the research and another 2% said they changed their mind.
Similarly, 50% of respondents said transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms that align with their current gender identity; 30% disagreed and 20% skipped the question or didn't have an opinion.
When told that studies show that preventing trans students from accessing bathrooms that match their gender identity is associated with harmful mental health indicators, including suicide, 88% of the 504 people who responded said they hadn't changed their mind. Another 10% felt less certain about restricting bathroom access and 2% said they changed their mind.
Oregon Values & Beliefs Center methodology
The survey was conducted online among Oregonians 18 and older from professionally maintained online panels. The polling group said its surveys are within the statistically valid margin of error.
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