Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 21 other attorneys general in a lawsuit against the Biden administration for threatening to withhold nutritional assistance for schools that don’t follow new sex discrimination programs.

The Utah Office of the Attorney General released a press release on Tuesday regarding the lawsuit claiming the new guidance put forward would put Utah’s Title IX and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding at risk.

“The Biden administration is unlawfully expanding Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity in an effort to force policy in Utah schools,” Richard Piatt, spokesman for the Utah Office of the Attorney General, said in a statement on behalf of the office.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services issued guidelines to Utah and other states that claim that discrimination on the basis of sex in Title IX and the Food and Nutrition Act includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form — including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

“At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”

But Reyes and the nearly two dozen other attorneys general that signed on to the lawsuit say the move goes too far.

“The federal government should not hold food for school children hostage to force policy change. The administration is unlawfully trying to rewrite the law and is placing essential nutritional services for Utah’s children at risk,” Piatt said.

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About 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions receive federal funds to give subsidized, reduced-price or free meals for children in need. Twenty-six state attorneys general called on President Joe Biden in a letter to withdraw the USDA’s guidance back in June.

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The 22 attorneys general joining the lawsuit are from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

The attorneys general argue the guidance was issued without giving other stakeholders the chance for input, which is a requirement according to the Administrative Procedures Act.

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The lawsuit also claims that the guidelines order unlawful regulatory measures on state agencies and operators that receive federal financial assistance from the USDA. This will ultimately result in mismanagement that could take away essential nutritional services to citizens who really need the programs, the lawsuit claims.

The National School Lunch program provides for nearly 30 million school children each day, and many of these children rely on the program for all three meals. The Utah State Board of Education says it has 14 Child Nutrition Programs that are made possible only through the USDA and FNS.

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