A Christian college that assigns dorm rooms based on male-female biology and not gender identity asked the Supreme Court on Monday to take up its appeal of a ruling that would force it to open its dorm rooms and shared shower spaces to members of the opposite sex.
The College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, asked the high court to block a Department of Housing and Urban Development directive that adds “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The move came after President Biden issued an executive order in 2021 that bars gender identity discrimination throughout the government.
Attorneys for the school contend the HUD directive could force it to violate biblical principles and traditional Christian beliefs regarding sex and marriage. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled against the school.
“College of the Ozarks should be free to follow the religious tradition on which it was founded. The government can’t strip a private, faith-based institution of its constitutionally protected freedoms because it disagrees with its views about marriage and sexuality,” said John Bursch, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, the public interest firm representing the school.
Mr. Bursch said that if the 8th Circuit ruling stands, the school “could be forced to choose between violating its religious beliefs or risking intrusive federal investigations and significant enforcement penalties,” including six-figure fines, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
The appellate court ruling said the school could not sue the administration in part because HUD had not taken action against the college or any other.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development did not respond to a request for comment.
The College of the Ozarks is located 47 miles south of Springfield, Missouri. Founded in 1906, it is known as “Hard Work U” because of its work-study program to help students graduate debt-free. Ninety percent of each incoming freshman class must demonstrate financial need.