On this day in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities, is signed into law by President Richard Nixon. A follow-up to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act states in pertinent part “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Providing sorely needed extra coverage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the new measure essentially codified a series of Executive Orders issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, but is separate and distinct from the Title IX of the Civil Rights Act itself. That Act did not prohibit sex discrimination against persons not employed at educational institutions, and the National Organization for Women persuaded Johnson to sign Executive Order 11375 requiring all entities receiving federal contracts to end discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring and employment.
Feminists during the early 1970’s lobbied leaders to draft a separate law to include this demographic which was mostly applied to athletics, implicitly, at that time. This group was largely the student demographic enrolled at U.S. schools and universities. While Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no explicit mention of sports.
In its public perception, Title IX’s coverage of sports was implied, however, as this was the topic on which the lobbying was based. President Barack Obama used Title IX to extend protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical or mental handicap through a series of “Dear Colleague” letters that remain in legal limbo. Under President Donald Trump, this has been rescinded back to the original protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Co-authored and introduced by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) in the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI), the provision was later renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 after the late Congresswoman. Of confusion regarding the law, Bayh said “It’s unfortunate. Title IX is rather simple: don’t discriminate on the basis of sex.”
Still a hot topic, debate typically focuses on whether or not Title IX has resulted in increased athletic opportunities for females, and whether and to what extent Title IX has resulted in decreased athletic opportunities for males. A 2006 study pointed to a dramatic increase in the number of women participating in athletics at both the high school and college level; that number of women in high school sports had increased by a factor of nine, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%. A later 2008 study of intercollegiate athletics showed that women’s collegiate sports have grown to 9,101 teams, or 8.65 per school.
And here our lesson of common sense and fundamental fairness endeth.