Title IX champion Patsy Mink honored locally and nationally on 50th anniversary
Title IX, the law best known for its role in gender equity in athletics and preventing sexual harassment on campuses, turned 50 on Thursday.
The 1972 federal law forbids discrimination based on sex in education, and despite its age remains a vital piece in the ongoing push for equality, including in the LGBTQ community.
Title IX was shepherded through Congress in part by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink of Hawaiʻi, who was also the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House.
Women’s rights groups and government officials gathered by her statue in front of the Hawaiʻi State Library in Honolulu to commemorate the event with a lei ceremony on Thursday.
"Before Title IX, educational institutions receiving federal funds were not prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of sex — and discriminate they did," said Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna.
Title IX was officially renamed to the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 following her death.
"As Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when she announced Patsy Mink's portrait hanging in the halls of Congress today, which happened earlier today, 'Because of Patsy's fighting spirit and commitment to equality, generations of women can now take their rightful place as leaders,'" McKenna said.
Across the country in Washington, Mink's official portrait was unveiled in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. The portrait will be displayed as part of the House’s permanent collection.
"She knew exclusion firsthand and she had the confidence and leadership to challenge and change discrimination through the law,” tennis icon Billie Jean King said at the portrait unveiling.
Hawaiʻi's congressional delegation, Mink's daughter Gwendolyn Mink and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attended the unveiling.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the Biden administration said it plans to reinstate Title IX regulations tossed out by the Trump administration.
Proposed changes would combat sexual discrimination in schools by boosting victim protections and modifying language to include sexual orientation and gender identity for LGBTQ+ students.
The statute itself is one sentence long: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
"37 words long, Title IX represented a sea change for women in our country. 50 years later, Title IX is just as important today as it was when Patsy fought for it," U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said Thursday.
"But while we have come a long way since Patsy was rejected from medical school because of her gender — of course, we still have a way to go for true equity."