Former USA Senator Birch Bayh, Author of Title IX Law, Dies at 91

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2019

FILE - In this June 20, 2012 file photo, former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., the author of Title IX in Congress, speaks during a forum in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington in a gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Bayh, who championed the federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and sports, has died. He was 91. Bayh died early Thursday, March 14, 2019, surrounded by his family at his home in Easton, Md., according to a statement released by his family.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Birch Bayh, the former Indiana senator who authored the federal Title IX law that prevents discrimination against women in college admissions and sports, died Thursday. He was 91.

Tom Davies of the Associated Press reported the news and noted Bayh remained a fierce supporter of Title IX enforcement long after leaving Congress in January 1981.

"It was clear that the greatest danger or damage being done to women was the inequality of higher education," Bayh said in 2012. "If you give a person an education, whether it's a boy or girl, young woman or young man, they will have the tools necessary to make a life for families and themselves."

Title IX went into effect in June 1972 after receiving overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Richard Nixon signed it into law.

"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," the law reads.

"You simply cannot look at the evolution of equality in our nation without acknowledging the contributions and the commitment Senator Bayh made to securing equal rights and opportunities for every American," Tennis legend Billie Jean King said in a statement, calling him "one of the most important Americans of the 20th century."

Bayh, a Terre Haute, Indiana, native who spent two years in the U.S. Army before his political career, was also a leading sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment and played a key role in the passage of the 25th (presidential succession) and 26th (national voting age of 18) amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

But he long marveled at the success of the Title IX legislation, per Davies.

"There was a soccer field I used to jog around," Bayh said. "One day, all of a sudden, I realized that half of the players were little girls and half of them were little boys. I realized then that that was, in part, because of Title IX."

The AP report noted Bayh was surrounded by family when he died early Thursday from pneumonia at his home in Easton, Maryland.