The College of the Ozarks is attempting to challenge a Biden Administration policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and bar the school from maintaining single-sex dorms.
The Missouri-based university initially sued the US Department of Housing and Urban Development over its Feb 11 memorandum, which would allow the federal department to administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act concerning sex or gender-based discrimination. In the initial lawsuit, the College's legal team argues that the directive "requires private religious colleges to open female showers, restrooms, and dorm rooms to biological males who assert a female gender identity." The College of the Ozarks also argued that the memorandum violated their First Amendment rights. The memorandum was promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The Fair Housing Act does not account for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
While some may see the memorandum as having little basis in the Fair Housing Act, the Biden administration argues that the ruling is designed to bring HUD policies in line with the Bostock v. Clayton County ruling, which did determine that significant parts of the Civil Rights Act did include sexual orientation and gender identity.
In June, the case was dismissed by a district court, with the judge ruling that the College had failed to prove any actual or imminent harm to justify the lawsuit.
Now the College is filing to appeal the ruling in the Eighth Circuit. The Circuit judges have agreed to expedite arguments for the case and have scheduled a hearing in November.
Julie Marie Blake, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told Inside Higher Ed that "The thing to remember is College of the Ozarks is a religious school that tries to provide a religious education. It is a school that does not charge tuition, instead welcoming students who agree to follow its code of conduct. It's targeted at students with some of the most financial need, and the government should not be threatening the College of the Ozarks with ruinous fines that could be in the six figures or even unlimited that could require it to close its doors or close the doors to student housing just because it has a religious code of conduct that governs its housing."