Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said before a Senate subcommittee that all schools receiving federal funds have to follow federal laws on civil rights.
During a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked DeVos if private schools funded by her federal voucher program would be required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, along with other civil rights laws.
"Let me be clear, schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law," DeVos said, according to The Hill.
"Even schools that are in the voucher program?" Murray asked.
"Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law. Period," DeVos responded.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said federal law is "somewhat foggy" on protections for LGBT students, to which DeVos said, "On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle," according to The Hill.
Merkley then asked: "Is discrimination going to be allowed or not allowed under your understanding?"
DeVos replied: "I'm going back to what I said earlier."
"Well what you said earlier didn't help us since this in an area of unsettled law," Merkley responded.
Merkley asked her specifically about discrimination based on religion, prompting DeVos to repeat the same answer.
"What is that law in this case, to your understanding?" Merkley asked pointedly. "Will such religious discrimination be accepted? Answer the question!"
After DeVos repeated the same answer again, Merkley asked that the record show the secretary refused to promote a program that bans discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation or identity.
"Senator, that's not what I said," DeVos said. "Discrimination in any form is wrong. I don't support discrimination in any form."
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