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AG nominee Merrick Garland sidesteps question on letting trans women compete in women's sports: 'Difficult question'

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'I know what underlies it'

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's attorney general nominee, refused to commit to an answer during Monday's confirmation hearing whether biologically born males should be permitted to compete in women's sports as transgender women.

On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order calling on schools to permit trans female athletes to compete on girls' sports teams.

What are the details?

During Monday's hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garland said that the question — which he did not answer — was a "very difficult societal question."

In remarks, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said, "In my last 20 seconds, I'm going to ask you, if you agree with this statement, allowing, and I'm not suggesting the answer one way or the other, I just want to know what you believe, allowing biological males to compete in an all-female sport, deprives women of the opportunity to participate fully and fairly in sports, and is fundamentally unfair to female athletes."

Garland responded, "This is a very difficult societal question that you're asking me here. I know what underlies it."

Undeterred, Kennedy responded, "I know, but you're going to be attorney general."

Garland explained that he might well be attorney general, but he's not the one "who has to make policy decisions like that."

"But it's not that I'm adverse to it," he countered. "Look, I think every human being should be treated with dignity and respect."

Placing his hand over his heart, Garland added, "And that's an overriding sense of my own character, but an overriding sense of what the law requires. This particular question of how Title IX applies in schools is one and in light of the Bostock case, which I know you're very familiar with, is something that I would have to look at when I have a chance to do that. I've not had the chance to consider these kinds of issues in my career so far, but I agree that this is a difficult question."

From Outsports:

The Bostock case Garland referred to was last summer's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that provided guarantees to the LGBTQ community that we cannot be discriminated against in matters of employment. Legal scholars have debated whether that right could be applied beyond employment, but writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch — who filled the seat that President Barack Obama had nominated Garland to fill — seems to have answered that question: "Whether other policies and practices might or might not qualify as unlawful discrimination or find justifications under other provisions of Title VII are questions for future cases, not these."
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