Senate Hearings Set for Title IX Critic Nominated to DC Circuit Court
In an unorthodox move, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) scheduled a hearing next week for the confirmation of Thomas Griffith during Congress’ lame-duck session. Griffith, an outspoken critic of Title IX, was nominated by President Bush last May to the DC Circuit Court of appeals, considered the second most powerful court in the country. The Washington Post reports that Senator Hatch, a proponent of Griffith’s, was eager to set the confirmation hearing before his committee chairmanship ends. Since Griffith’s nomination, controversy has arisen upon the discovery that he has been practicing law without a license in both the District and in Utah. This revelation is thought to have contributed to his receipt of the lowest possible passing grade by the American Bar Association in September.
Currently the senior legal counsel for Brigham Young University, Griffith was a member of the President's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics that recommended weakening enforcement of Title IX, the landmark 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. While on the Commission, Griffith proposed removing the proportionality test as one of the three criteria schools are required to meet to comply with Title IX athletics requirements. Griffith's proposal to remove this provision, critical to the effectiveness of Title IX in athletics, failed by a vote of 11-4. When asked by another commission member how his position stands up to the eight federal courts that have upheld the use of the proportionality test, Griffith replied, "They said it was a reasonable interpretation, not required. I believe they're wrong."
"Title IX has been instrumental in providing equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including sports. Such a detractor of equal opportunity in education must not be given this position of power to gut Title IX," warns FMF Education Equity Director Sue Klein. According to the American Association of University Women, there is reason for concern that, given his stance on Title IX, Griffith could also look unfavorably on cases involving policies that have a negative effect on women and minorities, employment discrimination, and affirmative action.