President Biden has tapped Suzanne Goldberg, a prominent law professor who specializes in sexuality and gender law, to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach at the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
Goldberg previously served as the Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia University, a clinical professor of law and the founding director of the Columbia Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, and co-director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.
Prior to joining the Columbia faculty in 2006, she was on the Rutgers-Newark Law School faculty and an adjunct faculty member at Fordham Law School. She also served as a special advisor on sexual assault prevention and response to Columbia President Lee Bollinger beginning in 2014.
Goldberg began her legal career at Lambda Legal, where she worked on LGBTQ and HIV-related civil rights cases, dealing with immigration, employment discrimination, and family law.
She also worked on two key LGBTQ rights cases, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down Texas’s law prohibiting sodomy, and Romer v. Evans, a case dealing with a Colorado voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of LGBTQ rights.
Even while working at Columbia, she filed brief in nearly every marriage equality case in the United States.
Goldberg will be taking a temporary leave of absence from her faculty position while she works in the Biden administration. In her new role, she will oversee operations and outreach efforts aimed at preventing, identifying, and remedying discrimination against students in federally-funded schools or universities.
In addition to dealing with complaints of alleged discrimination, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights also oversees enforcement of Title IX, particularly as it relates to campus sexual assault — an issue Goldberg dealt with during her time at Columbia.
The Office for Civil Rights came under scrutiny during the Trump administration, facing criticism from sexual assault survivor advocates for policies that they believed were too lenient regarding those accused of assault. The Office for Civil Rights was also criticized by LGBTQ advocates for not taking seriously complaints of discrimination lodged by transgender students.
Under former Education Secretary of Betsy DeVos, the department refused to acknowledge anti-transgender discrimination as a form of sex-based discrimination.
DeVos also announced that the department would no longer investigate claims of transgender discrimination dealing with access to restrooms or changing facilities.
She later said that the department would not change its transgender policy until Congress — notably, not courts, as has occurred in three separate federal circuit courts — explicitly “clarifies” that Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination applies to instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
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