SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney found himself in agreement with conservative Sen. Rand Paul on not allowing transgender students to participate in girls sports during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday.
"I want to associate myself with a number of the things that were said by Sen. Paul. That's not something I say very frequently, but he made a very, very good point," said the Utah Republican who headed the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Noting the photos of his eight granddaughters among his grandsons on the wall behind him, Romney said, "They shouldn't be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category, and I think boys should be competing with boys and girls should be competing with (girls) on the athletic field."
Sen. Mitt Romney: "I've got pictures of my 8 granddaughters, amongst some grandsons, behind me. They shouldn't be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category." pic.twitter.com/h5HbKHQyCn— Forbes (@Forbes) February 3, 2021
Romney's comments came after Paul questioned President Joe Biden's education secretary nominee, Miguel Cardona, about the issue at length during a Senate confirmation hearing.
The Kentucky Republican repeatedly asked Cardona if he thinks it's fair to have "boys competing with girls," arguing that it will "completely destroy girls athletics."
Also Wednesday, a Utah state lawmaker, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, filed a bill titled "Preserving Sports for Female Students." HB302 would require public schools and universities to designate athletic activities by sex. It would prohibit a student of the "male sex from participating in an athletic activity designated for female students."
Idaho passed a first-of-its-kind law last year that bans transgender women from playing high school and college sports in the state. But a federal judge blocked it from taking effect.
The Fairness in Women's Sports Act would not allow Idaho athletes to participate on a women's team without first verifying that person's "internal and external reproductive anatomy" if her sex is disputed.
In the Senate hearing, Paul asked Cardona if he would enforce an opinion the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights sent to the state of Connecticut saying that allowing transgender students to compete based on their gender identity violates Title IX.
"I think that it's critically important that education systems and educators respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender, and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular activities," Cardona said.
I think that it's critically important that education systems and educators respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender, and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular activities.
–Miguel Cardona, education secretary nominee
In Connecticut, three high school girls who lost track titles to males who identify as females sued the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference over a policy that allows biological males to compete as girls in high school sports.
Paul said girls are being pushed out, don't make state finals or get college scholarships having to compete against boys.
Cardona said he believes transgender students have a right to participate in high school sports.
"Well, a lot of us think that that's bizarre, not very fair," Paul said. "I come from a family that has a lot of girls who have competed in college athletics, have been state champions and, frankly, some boy that's 6-foot-2 competing against my 5-foot-4 niece doesn't sound very fair."
Frankly, some boy that's 6-foot-2 competing against my 5-foot-4 niece doesn't sound very fair.
–Sen. Rand Paul
Paul continued, "You're going to run the Department of Education. You've got no problem with it. That concerns me."
He said it would lead the majority of the country "wondering who are these people that think it's OK? From what planet are you from to think it's OK that boys would compete with girls in a track meet and that somehow would be fair?" he said.
Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee has expressed the same sentiment. He was among a group of GOP senators who filed legislation last year to withhold federal funds from schools that allow transgender women to participate in women's and girls sports.
From December 2020:
"This is not about being transphobic or having anything against transgender persons," he said in December. "This is a simple question of fairness and physical safety."
Transgender athletes have also fought against legislation aimed at limiting their participation due to their gender identity, arguing in some cases that such policies violate Title IX.
Lee sharply challenged the NCAA's opposition to the Idaho law last July. He said he was concerned about the NCAA undermining women by pushing schools to allow individuals born biologically of one gender to participate in another gender's sports.
"I'm worried about some of the policies that you've taken," he told NCAA President Mark Emmert in a committee hearing. "It's offensive to me and to millions of Americans that the great strides our society has taken to protect women's rights and women's sports are now at risk of being undone."