Heated Exchange Ends With DeVos Refusing to Affirm She Will Protect Students From Anti-LGBT Discrimination
Betsy DeVos says her Dept. of Education will not work to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination nor will she establish a program to do so. The Secretary of Education appeared Tuesday morning before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to discuss her education budget for 2018, when Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon asked her about LGBTQ students.
Senator Merkley began by having Secretary DeVos agree all schools that receive federal funding must follow federal laws regarding discrimination.
"But those laws are somewhat foggy in that area, so I want to be absolutely clear about what you're saying," Sen. Merkley continued, asking DeVos if she were saying that private schools receiving federal funds would not be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ students.
"Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law," DeVos responded, seemingly tossing out a rote response.
Merkley repeated that federal law on anti-LGBTQ discrimination is "foggy," and asked her again if discrimination against LGBTQ students will be allowed.
"On areas where the law is unsettled, this Department is not going to be issuing decrees - " DeVos began.
Merkley interjected, requesting she answer his question.
"That is a matter for Congress and the courts - " DeVos continued.
Merkley again interjected, asking her again to answer his question.
"On areas of unsettled law, Congress and the Supreme Court has to decide and settle."
"Are you refusing to answer the question?" Merkley asked, as the exchange got heated.
"I'm going back to what I said earlier," DeVos insisted.
"Well, what you said earlier didn't help us," Merkley noted. "But I think you just said is where it's unsettled such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that's incorrect please correct it for the record."
But Senator Merkley wasn't finished.
"How about discrimination based on religion? Will such discrimination be allowed with charter or private schools?"
As has become her pattern, DeVos stuck to her statement.
"Again, on schools that receive federal funds, federal law must be followed."
Merkley asked again, insisting she "answer the question."
"Schools that receive federal funds will follow federal law, period," DeVos, with a somewhat defiant grin, responded.
"You're refusing to answer the question. I think that's very important for the public to know that today, the Secretary of Education before this Committee refused to affirm that she would put forth a program that would ban discrimination based on LGBTQ status of students, or ban discrimination based on religion."
"Sir, that's not what I said. Discrimination in any form is wrong," DeVos offered, having noted previously she would take no action against it.
"Does your program ban discrimination?" Merkley pressed, referring to her charter and private school program.
"As I said before, and let me say again, schools that receive federal funds need to follow federal law. Period," she said, again offering a grin.
During her last appearance before a Senate committee just two weeks ago, Secretary DeVos said she has no problem with states that allow schools to discriminate against LGBT students while receiving federal funds, and believes that the federal government should not intervene. She also pointed to school choice as an opportunity for parents to find schools that won't discriminate against their children, if that's something they want.
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