U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told ESPN that transgender girls have a “right to compete” and suggested that the Biden administration will step in to protect those students’ civil rights, as multiple states enact legislation banning transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

On June 1, the first day of Pride Month, Florida became the eighth state to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s competitions. In a wide-ranging interview on issues related to sex discrimination and athletes, the new leader of America’s school systems addressed the bans and said it was “non-negotiable that we’re going to protect the civil rights of all students,” setting up a possible showdown between federal civil rights enforcement and local control in education.

Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

Cardona was the commissioner of education in Connecticut prior to joining President Joe Biden’s cabinet and said his experience there “strengthened my resolve” to stand behind transgender athletes.

“It’s their right as a student to participate in these activities. And we know sports does more than just put ribbons on the first-, second- and third-place winner,” he said. “We know that it provides opportunities for students to become a part of a team, to learn a lot about themselves, to set goals and reach them and to challenge themselves. Athletics provides that in our K-12 systems and in our colleges, and all students deserve an opportunity to engage in that.”

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender