After 101 days of silence on the issue, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont finally affirmed his support of transgender student athletes and three local school boards that support their right to compete. He also firmly rejected threats by the U.S. Department of Education to withhold federal funding to the state and those school districts, telling the feds to “butt out.”
The Office of Civil Rights this month served notice that those districts might also face action by the Department of Justice if they did not leave the state’s governing body for high school sports, which provides opportunities for transgender students to compete in the gender by which they identify.
In his remarks during a scheduled press briefing in Hartford Monday, Lamont criticized the actions of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department. He accused them of using the issue to affect the November general election.
“The idea that they’re going to come in, the federal government, and politicize a tough, versatile situation six weeks before an election? I just find that shocking,” Lamont said. “We are going to stand up and fight against discrimination.”
His statement Monday was a marked departure from remarks made on June 12. Lamont was asked then about the ruling from the Office of Civil Rights, claiming the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy allowing transgender student athletes to compete in the gender to which they identify, in concordance with state law, violates Title IX. The governor stated that he “is not willing to lose federal education dollars over a state policy that allows transgender athletes to participate as girls in high school sports.”
Recent actions in two Connecticut cities may have sparked Monday’s statement. In August, Stamford’s Board of Representatives passed a resolution saying their city will uphold state law and previous Title IX rulings that protect transgender students. Earlier this month, New Haven’s Board of Education unanimously reaffirmed their membership in the CIAC, and is now considering a legal challenge to the U.S. Department of Education. New Haven is one of the districts threatened with funding cuts totalling $18 million that is earmarked toward desegregation efforts in those districts. It’s a move that New Haven’s mayor, Justin Elicker, also a member of the city’s Board of Education, said was “effectively extortion”.
“Taking away funding from our public schools in order to put us in position where we go against important policies,” Elicker told the New Haven Independent.
In his remarks Monday, Lamont stated that he saw the issue similar to the process when marriage equality was passed in the state. “I said then I didn’t want the federal government dictating who you could love,” Lamont said. “We’re going to work through this as a state. We’re going to figure this out at the community level and figure this out with our leagues. I just wish the federal government would just butt out on this subject. Leave our kids alone.”