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Senate confirms nominee who supported transgender athletes' participation in women's sports

Miguel_Cardona_vasilis_asvestas_Shutterstock.jpg Credit: vasilis asvestas/Shutterstock

The Senate on Monday voted to confirm President Biden’s nominee for education secretary, who had supported males identifying as transgender females to participate in girls’ athletics.

Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, was confirmed on Monday by a vote of 64 to 33. At his Feb. 4 confirmation hearing, he said that male athletes identifying as transgender females should be allowed to play girls’ sports.

Questioned by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) about the matter at his confirmation hearing, Cardona repeatedly stated that it “is the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities, and this includes students who are transgender.”

Several female athletes had sued the state of Connecticut in 2019, over the state’s policy of allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their “preferred gender identity” and not their biological sex. The girls alleged that they were discriminated against by having to compete against biological males.

The Trump-era Education Department issued a letter in 2019 stating that “boys can’t compete with girls in sports.” The agency also sided with the girls in the Connecticut transgender athletics case, saying that the state had violated Title IX through its policy.

However, last week the agency reversed course and withdrew its findings in the case. President Biden has already issued an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The order stated that part of the policy of his administration would be to allow students to play sports based on their gender identity.

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When asked about the Education Department’s 2019 letter, Cardona would not say if he would continue to enforce the policy.  He answered that he would uphold “the civil rights of all students, and that includes activities they may engage in, in high school or in athletics.”

He later told Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) that it was “non-negotiable to make sure that our learning environments are places that are free of discrimination and harassment for all learners, including our LGBTQ students.” 

The White House has made a number of other appointments to the Education Department including Suzanne Goldberg, a former attorney with the pro-LGBT group Lambda Legal.

Goldberg, appointed to serve as assistant secretary in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, was the founding director of the Columbia Law School's Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, and co-director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law. Her university bio lists her as “a leading advocate and attorney for the LGBTQ+ community.”

At Columbia, Goldberg “reaffirmed” policies for students identifying as transgender in 2018, clarifying that students could access bathrooms based on their gender identity and students

She told the New York Times in 2020 that the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling—which extended employment discrimination protections to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—was “a simple and profound victory for L.G.B.T. civil rights.”

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