President Biden’s choice for education secretary told senators Wednesday he believes biological boys who identify as girls have the legal right to compete on girls’ teams and that if confirmed, he will ensure schools are following that interpretation of the law.
Miguel Cardona, currently Connecticut’s commissioner of education, is Biden’s choice to head the Department of Education. He appeared before the Senate Education Committee Wednesday to answer questions about his positions.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pressed Cardona on his beliefs about transgender athletes competing in high school sports. In Connecticut -- Cardona’s home state -- two biological boys who identify as girls won a combined 15 girls’ track state titles.
This week, tennis legend Martina Navratilova and a coalition of women’s sports activists said it was unfair to allow transgender girls and women who “have experienced all or part of male puberty” to compete alongside female athletes.
The Biden administration interprets Title IX – a 1972 law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education -- as applying to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Do you think it's fair to have boys running in the girls’ track meet?” Paul asked.
“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 responded.
Paul replied, “You don't have a problem, then, with boys running in the girls’ track meet, swimming meets ... you're okay, then, with boys competing with girls?”
“I believe,” Cardona answered, that “schools should offer the opportunity for students to engage in extracurricular activities, even if they're transgender. I think that's their right.”
Cardona also indicated he would not enforce a Trump-era policy that said schools are in violation of federal law if they allow biological boys to compete alongside girls. Asked if he backed the policy, 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.
“I think that it's critically important [that] education systems and educators respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender, and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular activities,” Cardona answered.
Paul argued that such a policy not only was unfair but that it “would completely destroy girls’ athletics.” Girls “don't make the finals in the state meet” and “don't get college scholarships” due to the participation of biological boys, Paul said.
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) spoke up in support of Paul’s position.
"I've got pictures of my eight granddaughters, amongst her grandsons, behind me,” Romney said. “They shouldn't be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category. And I think boys should be competing with boys and girls should be competing with [girls] on the athletic field.”
“I just don't think it's American that a genotypical male, a person with Y chromosome, is competing against girls,” Marshall said. “... There's nothing American about letting people with a Y chromosome compete against women.”
Paul labeled Cardona’s beliefs on the issue “bizarre.”
“Some boy that's six-foot-two competing against my five-foot-four niece doesn't sound very fair,” Paul said. “... This kind of thing is going to lead to really just the vast majority of America just wondering who are these people that think it's okay? From what planet are you from – to think it's okay that boys would compete with girls in a track meet?”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Joshua Roberts/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.