February 7 was a sad day for public education, especially our most at risk students, the LGBTQ community with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.
LGBTQ advocates opposed DeVos based on major donations from her family’s foundations to anti-LGBTQ groups, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage. These groups support the highly controversial conversion therapy.
David Stacy, of the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization is “disappointed” with the confirmation and will watch to see if the Education Department takes actions to rescind LGBTQ rights. “She is now charged with ensuring that LGBTQ students around the country are able to go to school in a safe environment where they can learn without compromising who they are,” Stacy said. “We hope our substantial concerns about her commitment to maintaining and advancing protections for LGBTQ students are disproven by her actions. But, if instead she moves to roll back legal protections or fails to enforcement them, we will fight every step of the way to ensure LGBTQ students are safe and respected in their schools.”
All Democrats in the Senate and two Republicans voted against DeVos. Vice President Mike Pence broke the 50-50 tie to assure DeVos’ confirmation.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont expressed his concern about DeVos by saying, “Mrs. DeVos and her family have contributed to anti-LGBT causes and anti-women’s health efforts, which are in direct conflict to the one who is supposed to lead the Department of Education. How can a nominee disagree with the mission of the Department of Education and be fit to oversee that agency and promote the civil rights of schools and college campuses?”
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is the only out lesbian in Congress, declared her opposition to DeVos before the confirmation vote and said that she’s “troubled” by the DeVos family’s contributions to anti-LGBT organizations. “While she told me and several of my colleagues at her hearing that she believes all students should be treated equally, I really remain concerned about how this long history of support for these anti-LGBTQ organizations will influence a department which, over the last eight years, has shown some tremendous leadership in supporting LGBTQ students and parents in the education system,” said Baldwin.
During her confirmation hearing, DeVos denied having anti-LGBTQ views, saying she’s “never supported” conversion therapy and the anti-LGBTQ donations were from her family, not her or her husband. According to the American Federation of Teachers, a foundation run by DeVos and her husband, contributed $100,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which opposed marriage equality.
As the leader of the Education Department, DeVos could rescind protections that the Obama administration started that interprets federal law to prohibit schools from discriminating against transgender students or denying them access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity.Tags: Betsy DeVos, David Stacy, Education Department, Education Secretary, Patrick Leahy, Public Education, Tammy Baldwin