Idaho’s transgender athlete ban appears to have picked up a prominent ally on Capitol Hill and it’s Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
In a Senate hearing last Wednesday, Lee attempted to dress down NCAA President Mark Emmert on the issue of trans inclusion in athletics. For context, the NCAA has declared its opposition to the Idaho law, stating that it “conflicts with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect, and the equitable treatment of all individuals.”
Furthermore, the NCAA has intimated that it might pull prominent events such as the NCAA basketball tournament from Idaho due to the ban. This apparently drew the ire of Lee, who went off on Emmert during the hearing, making sure to hit several familiar dog whistles in the process:
“I am concerned about the NCAA’s track record of undermining women by pushing schools to allow individuals born biologically of one gender to participate in another gender’s sports.”
Once Lee dropped the word “biologically,” you could pretty much fill in the blanks for the rest of his anti-trans Mad Lib from there. Nonetheless, Lee continued and even amped up his indignation that the NCAA would dare consider that trans women are women...
“I’m worried about some of the policies that you’ve taken. 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 the risk of being undone.”
This would be the same Mike Lee who’s so concerned with protecting women’s rights that he referred to the Equal Rights Amendment as “a radical pro-abortion agenda.” In 2020. Apparently, just a few months later, Lee suddenly decided that cis women’s rights weren’t such a radical agenda after all when he could use them to attack trans women.
However, it’s not surprising that Lee would attack the NCAA for protecting trans athletes as he has a history of reactionary views concerning LGBTQ rights. According to the Huffington Post’s Lydia O’Connor, in 2018 Lee “put a hold on the reappointment of Chai Feldblum,” the first lesbian to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, because of her “radical views on marriage.”
Then in 2019, when the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act “to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation,” Lee declared his public opposition, tweeting in response:
Americans are becoming more tolerant every day, which is why the Equality Act is so counterproductive. It unnecessarily pits communities against each other and divides our nation when patience and understanding are so sorely needed.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) May 17, 2019
It bears repeating that Mike Lee asserted that “Americans are becoming more tolerant every day” in the year 2019. If that’s the case, somebody better tell the Mike Lee in 2020 who’s openly attacking the trans-inclusive policies of the NCAA.