Invoking its authority to “enforce[e] laws that prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of, among other things, sex,” the Justice Department’s civil-rights division in recent months launched investigations and requested information from one school regarding a male student there who wore a pink wig and makeup (as well as “skinny jeans” and “vintage” clothes, whatever those are) and from another school where a male student wore a wig and stiletto heels. The schools asserted that these were dress-code violations; the division wants to know, among other things, whether female students are allowed to wear wigs, makeup, and stiletto heels. Still, the division is reassuring: “We stress that the inquiry is preliminary in nature, and we do not suggest that any federal violation has occurred.” Yet.
Now, putting the law aside for a moment, one has to ask whether this is really a good use of the federal government’s resources, and of course no one would say that it is — unless, of course, you think it is important that the federal government make a kulturkampf statement. As for the law, the statute that the division cited — 42 U.S.C. section 2000c-6 — requires there to be an “equal protection” violation, which is a reference to the Fourteenth Amendment. So, does the Obama administration really think that it is unconstitutional for high schools to have a dress code that makes distinctions between what is appropriate dress for males and what is appropriate dress for females?