President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education has said it is “critically important” that the rights of transgender students be respected.
Dr. Miguel Cardona, who currently serves as Connecticut’s commissioner of education, affirmed his support for transgender students in response to a questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Paul referenced a letter sent last year by the Trump administration to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference telling it to abandon its policy allowed trans female athletes to to compete in girls sports, or risk losing federal funding.
The Kentucky senator asked Cardona if he would support that letter, which claimed that Connecticut’s policy violated the civil rights of female athletes.
“I understand that there are a lot of concerns about that,” Cardona said. “If confirmed, it’s my responsibility and my privilege to make sure that we’re following [the] civil rights of all students. And that includes activities that they may engage in in high school or in athletics.”
Paul then abandoned the legal argument against trans athletes and instead switched to outright transphobia.
“What do you think in general about boys running in girls track meets, like they’ve been doing in Connecticut?” he asked.
“I think that it’s critically important to have education systems and educators respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender,” Cardona responded, “and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular activities.”
Paul retorted by continuing to misgender trans female athletes, citing unspecified statistics about trans athletes in girls’ sports and telling Cardona that it would “completely destroy girls’ athletics.”
“The girls are being pushed out,” Paul said. “Do you worry about having boys run in girls’ track meets?”
Cardona said that he had spoken to families in Connecticut who had voiced the same opinions as Paul, as well as families of transgender students, and said he looked forward to working with Paul on the issue.
“Do you think it’s fair to have boys running in the girls track meet?” Paul interjected.
“I think it’s the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities, and this includes students who are transgender,” Cardona said.
Paul then launched into a lengthy, scaremongering diatribe warning about “hulking, six foot four guys wrestling against girls” and called supporting transgender athletes “completely bizarre.”
.@RandPaul: "Do you think it's fair to have boys running in the girls track meet?"
Sec. @usedgov Nominee Cardona: "I think it's the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities and this includes students who are transgender." pic.twitter.com/XxHqPYyB2E
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 3, 2021
It has sparked a movement aimed at banning or preventing trans athletes from competing in sports or extracurricular activities according to their gender identity.
Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) claimed that transgender female athletes wishing to compete in women’s sports did so as part of a “deliberate, sadistic effort to harm girls and women.”
Last year, Idaho lawmakers barred transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports at the high school and collegiate levels, and barred athletes suspected of being transgender from competition until they submit to medical testing to verify their “internal and external reproductive anatomy.”
Soon after the law passed, a trans athlete seeking to compete in college, as well as a cisgender high school athlete who was concerned about being forced to submit to genetic testing, sued to overturn the law. A federal judge later issued an order blocking state officials from attempting to enforce the law while the case makes its way through the courts.
If confirmed by the Senate, Cardona’s tenure as education secretary would mark a sharp reversal of the department under former Sec. Betsy DeVos, who was repeatedly criticized for her lack of experience, inept performance, and anti-LGBTQ stances — including rescinding Obama-era guidance protecting transgender students, something DeVos later admitted she knew would harm them, and refusing to answer when asked if it anti-LGBTQ discrimination was acceptable in schools.
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