A group of 20 Republican senators called on the Biden administration on Monday to withdraw recently proposed rule changes to Title IX that could prevent states from enforcing bans on transgender athletes competing in sports that don’t correspond to their biological sex at birth.
The Education Department’s proposed rule would allow schools to ban transgender students or nonbinary students from participating in sports on a case-by-case basis. As several GOP-led state legislatures consider bills to ban transgender students from participating on sports teams, the senators argued in a letter sent to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that the creation of Title IX was to ensure fairness in the first place.
“Congress made clear that its intention in passing Title IX was to prohibit discrimination against women participating fully in all aspects of athletic and academic opportunity at institutions that received federal financial assistance,” the senators wrote. “This proposed rule uses weakly-associated case law and polarizing social concepts to broaden the definition of women and girls to include individuals who identify as women, and in doing so, the intent of the law is destroyed and women are marginalized yet again.”
Led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), the group — including Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Rick Scott (R-FL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Jim Risch (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Ted Budd (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) — slammed the administration’s proposal, calling it a “political agenda which completely ignores science.”
The administration proposed the new federal rule change for Title IX in April, which would prohibit policies that “categorically” ban transgender students from participating on sports teams. Those who oppose the changes worry that it leaves too much room to discriminate against students. According to a public notice from the department, the proposal would allow schools to enforce some restrictions in “competitive” environments. For example, schools could consider the grade level or education level to make a final decision.
“Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination,” Cardona said in a statement in April.
The Republican senators argue the proposed changes encourage more discrimination against female athletes.
“This proposed rule reverts the playing field to a time before Title IX’s enactment and will cause irreparable harm to women entering academia and athletics,” the senators added in the letter. “We urge the Department to immediately withdraw this proposed rule and work with Congress on strengthening the statute that made it all possible for women to have equal rights in education.”
Tuberville reintroduced a bill in early March aimed at curbing biologically male transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. The legislation would prevent federal funds from being allocated to entities that permit transgender women to participate in women’s sports. The Alabama senator attempted to get the Senate to pass the bill by unanimous consent in an effort to counteract the Biden administration’s rule, but Democrats in the Senate blocked the bill in late April.
When the proposed rule changes were announced last month, advocates celebrated but called on the administration to eliminate the exemptions.
“Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes transgender girls of all ages and in all sports, without exception,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group, in a statement. “The new rule should be clarified to ensure that all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.”
More than 6 in 10 adults said transgender girls and women should not be allowed to compete in girls and women’s sports, including professional, college, high school, and youth levels, according to a recent survey. Opponents say this forces women and girls to compete against biological males.