Senator Rand Paul quizzed President Biden’s education secretary nominee, Miguel Cardona, on transgender student athletes during a charged exchange at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
President Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office calling on schools to allow transgender student athletes to participate in the sporting events that match their gender identity rather than their biological gender.
Biden’s order broadens last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that LGBT individuals are protected from workplace discrimination based on sex, to apply to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools receiving federal money.
However, last year the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights informed the state of Connecticut that allowing transgender student athletes to participate in female sports violated the Title IX rights of female students.
Cardona is currently Connecticut’s commissioner of education.
“If you’re confirmed, will you enforce that Office of Civil Rights opinion?” Paul asked Cardona at Wednesday’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“I understand that there are a lot of concerns about that. If confirmed, it’s my responsibility and my privilege to make sure that we’re following civil rights of all students, and that includes activities that they may engage in in high school or athletics,” Cardona responded.
“What do you think in general of boys running in girls’ track meets like they’ve been doing in Connecticut?” the Kentucky Republican asked.
Cardona again declined to answer, reiterating that it is “critically important” teachers and schools “respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender.”
“So you don’t have a problem then, of boys running in the girls’ track meets, swimming meets, you name it, you’re ok then with boys competing with girls?,” Paul continued.
“Respectfully, senator, I believe I answered the question,” Cardona replied.
“I think the fact that you seem to be afraid to answer the question, or you basically do answer the question by saying it’s ok without saying it’s ok, really is a statement to real problem we have and a disconnect between middle America and what most Americans actually believe,” Paul said.
“Who are these people that think it’s okay? From what planet are you from?,” Paul said to Cardona.
Last year, three female high-school students and their families filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block transgender athletes from competing in girls sports in Connecticut. The three girls, all accomplished runners, argued that they have been personally been harmed by a policy allowing biological males to compete against them in their running events, missing their chances at championship titles, state records, and scholarship opportunities.