KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Public universities across the State of Tennessee received a letter from State Representative John Ragan of Oak Ridge advising the institutions to remove references to LGBTQI people being a “protected class” under the federal Title IX law from public-facing materials, including websites.

There are about a dozen public colleges and universities in Tennessee who received Ragan’s letter. The University Of Tennessee said they responded to Ragan through their own letter. Ragan said he’s waiting on several other schools to do the same.

When Title IX was first signed into law in 1972, it prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.

U.S. Department of Education had proposed changing the wording of Title IX to include members of the LGBTQ+ community, but those changes were blocked by an East Tennessee U.S. District Court judge in July. Any school with the phrasing referring to Title IX is going against state law, Ragan said.

“They are charted and funded by the State of Tennessee,” Ragan explained. “So obviously they [educational institutions who include LGBTQ+ in Title IX] are risking that in that sense by not following state law.”

The University of Tennessee responded to Ragan’s letter, saying in part, “it did not modify its publications, policies, or websites relating to Title IX in response to either the June 23, 2021 letter from the U.S. Department of Education or the injunction issued on July 15, 2022, by the federal district court.”

The school goes on to say in their letter, 

“We do not believe anything in our current policies, procedures, or statements relating to title IX or nondiscrimination violates either federal or state law.”

Ragan said not all universities have replied in the same manner.

“Universities are not at liberty to ignore state law, regardless of their accreditation or certification organizations say they most have to get their accreditation. These are not governmental entities, and as such universities must follow state law over and above what these organizations tell them.”

The ruling can still be appealed by a higher court, but until that happens or until a judge lifts the injunction, Ragan said, all public schools must comply with the request.