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Sen. Birch Bayh, champion of Title IX federal law, dies

Thursday, March 14, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Birch Bayh pushed in the U.S. Senate for the landmark 1972 federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and athletics, women received fewer than 10 percent of all medical and law degrees and only one in 27 high-school girls played sports.

Now, women make up more than half of those receiving bachelor's and graduate degrees and more than 3 million high school girls – one in two – play sports.

Bayh reveled in the impact of the Title IX law in the years after his time as a Democratic senator from Indiana ended. He described the Title IX law as the most important legal step for equality since the right of women to vote was guaranteed in 1920.

"There was a soccer field I used to jog around," he said in a 2002 interview. "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."

Bayh also sponsored a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18 amid protests over the Vietnam War. Another amendment he sponsored allowed the replacement of vice presidents.

But it was his work to pass the landmark Title IX law that helped solidify his legacy before his death today at 91.

Tennis great Billie Jean King, who worked with Bayh on women's rights issues, released a statement with his family saying the former senator was "one of the most important Americans of the 20th century."

"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," King said.