In a hearing for President Biden’s nominee for education secretary Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pressed Dr. Miguel Cardona to weigh in on the ongoing debate about how transgender students should compete in sports, describing the concept of students competing with their corresponding gender identity as “bizarre” and repeatedly mislabeling transgender girls as “boys.”
In a line of questioning that’s since drawn criticism on social media, the Republican senator repeatedly asked Cardona if he thinks it’s fair to have “boys competing with girls,” arguing it will “completely destroy girls’ athletics.”
Paul specifically drew on findings published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights last spring that stated Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conferences decision to allow transgender female athletes to compete in women’s sports violated Title IX.
“If you’re confirmed, would you support the Office of Civil Right opinion?” Paul asked.
Cardona said while he understands “there’s a lot of concerns,” he believes it is the “legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities and this includes students who are transgender.”
In response, Paul said he found it “bizarre” that some people believe transgender students should be able to compete with their corresponding gender identity.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also echoed Paul’s concerns about transgender women competing in women’s’ sports, saying: “I’ve got pictures of my 8 granddaughters, among some grandsons, behind me … They shouldn’t be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category.”
“Frankly some boy who is 6’2” competing against my niece who is 5’4” doesn’t sound very fair,” said Paul. “I think most people think it’s bizarre.”
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement on Twitter criticizing Paul’s line of questioning. “There are thousands of issues facing kids across the country during the pandemic,” said the LGBTQ+ advocacy group. “Rand Paul chose to use all of his time during a hearing for Secretary of Education today to attack trans kids instead. Shame on him.”
The Biden administration’s early actions on transgender rights have once again inflamed debate over whether transgender athletes should compete on sports teams that don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. Biden has sought to expand protections for the LGBTQ+ community, signing an executive order on his first day in office that mandated all students, including transgender students, be able to learn without facing sex discrimination, and revoking the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” read the first order. Last month, lawmakers in six states introduced bills aimed at limiting transgender athletes’ participation in women’s sports. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, lawmakers introduced 20 such bills in 2020, as the Trump administration argued that Title IX did not apply to transgender females playing on women’s sports teams.