The US secretary of education has declared that trans girls have a “right to compete” in sports and vowed that the Biden administration will protect their civil rights.
Speaking to ESPN on Monday (7 June), the new leader of America’s school systems addressed the wave of discriminatory legislation sweeping across the country.
Commenting just days after Florida became the seventh state to pass a ban on trans athletes, secretary Miguel Cardona warned it was “non-negotiable” that the government would be protecting the civil rights of all students.
“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,” he said.
“Our LGBTQ students have endured more harassment than most other groups. 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.”
Before joining Biden’s cabinet Cardona was the commissioner of education in Connecticut, the home of an infamous federal lawsuit which claimed it was unfair that cis athletes had to compete against trans ones.
Cardona said his experience there “strengthened my resolve” to stand behind transgender athletes.
“It’s their right as a student to participate in these activities,” he said simply.
“And we know sports does more than just put ribbons on the first-, second- and third-place winner. We know that it provides opportunities for students to become a part of a team, to learn a lot about themselves, to set goals and reach them and to challenge themselves.
“Athletics provides that in our K-12 systems and in our colleges, and all students deserve an opportunity to engage in that.”
ESPN suggests Cardona may be setting up a possible showdown between civil rights enforcement and local control in education – a plausible scenario given that the Biden administration has withdrawn support from the anti-trans bills and warned they could be breaking federal law.
Promisingly, the Human Rights Campaign revealed last month that the White House is getting ready to “directly and publicly challenge” the anti-trans bills in state legislatures.
HRC president Alphonso David told The Daily Beast: “There are options and actions that have yet to be taken that we are engaging with the Biden administration on as they explore different ways where they can be even more impactful. We can anticipate more actions from the Biden administration as related to these bills.
“I think more needs to be done, and we are engaging with them to do more. I believe that the administration is going be taking additional steps and additional actions that will further clarify their position as it relates to the anti-LGBTQ bills that we’re seeing in the states. I can’t tell you what form that will take.”