U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says in a new interview that the Biden administration "will act" to protect transgender athletes against state laws that prohibit biological boys from playing on girls' teams.
The topic became a front-burner cultural issue while Cardona served as commissioner of education in Connecticut, where two biological boys who identify as girls won a total of 15 state track championships.
Asked by ESPN to respond to complaints that participation by transgender athletes is unfair to female athletes, Cardona responded, "I recognize there's a lot of concern around that issue."
"But what's not tolerable is saying that some students cannot participate because of their gender," Cardona responded. "LGBTQ students have endured more harassment than most other groups. So it's critically important that we stand with them and give them opportunities to engage in what every other child can engage in without harassment. I do believe in local control; I do believe in state control. But we do have a responsibility to protect the civil rights of students, and if we feel the civil rights are being violated, we will act."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week became the latest governor to sign a bill into law prohibiting biological males from competing on female teams.
"Transgender athletes are students, first and foremost, and they deserve every right every other student gets," Cardona said. "That means a good education, that means access to extracurricular activities – be it theater, sports, it doesn't matter."
DeSantis said the Florida law is a matter of "common sense."
"Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and we have to prevent those opportunities from being eroded as is happening in other states," he said.
Four Connecticut female athletes are challenging the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) policy in federal court, arguing it deprived female competitors of opportunities to advance and compete in meets. The four athletes also assert that the state policy violates Title IX, a federal law that requires equal opportunities based on sex in education. They are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
"When I raced against male athletes, I knew that, even if I ran my best, I could only finish second in my heat, and third overall," said one of the athletes who filed the suit, Ashley Nicoletti. "Girls like me have suffered countless losses because of the CIAC's policy."
A Gallup poll found that 62 percent of Americans say they believe transgender athletes should "play on teams that match their birth gender."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Bmcent1
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.