Ohio AG joins with other AGs in suit against gender inclusion language in food benefits

By: - August 1, 2022 3:55 am

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has signed on to a lawsuit pushing back against federal rewrites to include anti-discrimination language in food assistance programs.

Attorneys General from more than 20 states filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a memorandum regarding the Food and Nutrition Services complaint policy on gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination.

The memorandum sets direction for states in updating their procedures related to “service and activities receiving federal financial assistance from the USDA to ensure discrimination complaints alleging sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are processed as complaints of prohibited sex discrimination.”

The law enforcement leaders of the states called the changes “federal overreach,” including telling the administrators of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in each state to update public documents to include language including gender identity and sexual orientation prohibitions.

“The department’s memoranda and final rule concern highly controversial and localized issues of enormous importance to states,” the AGs, including Yost, wrote in court documents.

The states denied refusing any benefits based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but challenge “the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the memoranda and final rule attempt to impose — obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns.”

The attorneys general also argue that the states already have to comply with a nondiscrimination policy, though that policy only specifies “sex” not sexual orientation or gender identity. The Biden administration, like the Obama administration before it, interprets gender and sexual orientation discrimination as forms of sex discrimination. The Trump administration did not, and rolled back the Obama-era rule. The Biden administration reimplemented it.

The lawsuit is similar to another lawsuit Yost signed on to last year against the U.S. Department of Education and non-discrimination language to include orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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