The Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees voted 4-2 Thursday to update its anti-harassment and discrimination policies, including a gender identity policy.
The issue drew a firestorm of objections over the past 2 weeks from conservative organizations and politicians, including Gov Pete Ricketts.
Ricketts issued a statement last week blasting the updates and especially including gender identity as a protected class, then wrote the trustees directly this week with essentially the same complaints.
Ricketts called the policies “ideological and unscientific” and said they “would sow division” while increasing the risk of sexual assault. He also argued the policies violate the free speech rights of state college employees by forcing them to use the pronouns that align with an individual’s gender identity.
College System Chancellor Paul Turman says gender identity discrimination in the 3 colleges has been banned since 2015 with the changes adding definitions and bringing the policy up-to-date with new laws and court decisions. A new policy clarifies existing rules and practices.
Turman says rather than ordering employees to use each other’s chosen name, pronouns, and gender identity, the policy “asks” them to respect those choices. Officials say there have been no issues at the 3 colleges since an identical policy was passed for students in July.
As for the fears of increased sexual assaults if biological males identifying as women as allowed to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms, sexual assault advocates and law enforcement officials in cities and states with laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination say there’s no evidence to support such fears.
The state college system’s policies are in line with this past summer’s U-S Dept of Education’s interpretation of that Supreme Court decision, concluding that under Title IX, which bans sex-based discrimination on campus also bans discrimating against gay and transgender people.