Joe Biden’s attorney general pick vows to combat trans violence – but dodges question on school sports

attorney general nomee merrick garland

Joe Biden‘s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland vowed to combat anti-trans violence, especially the threat of violence facing Black, trans women in the US.

In a hearing before the Senate, Merrick Garland told the judiciary committee that he plans to recommit the government to furthering civil rights should he be confirmed to the attorney general role. He acknowledged that violence against the trans community is a hate crime, and it is the job of the US Justice Department to crackdown on such crimes.

At the hearing, New Jersey’s Democratic senator Cory Booker asked what Garland’s Department of Justice would do to stop the murders of trans Americans – particularly Black, trans women – and the need to protect trans children.

“It’s the job of the Justice Department to stop this, to find them, to enforce and to penalise,” Garland said.

He added: “It’s clear to me that this kind of hateful activity has to stop, and yes, we need to put resources into it.”

During the hearing, Joe Kennedy, a senator from Louisiana, questioned Merrick Garland on whether allowing trans athletes to compete in school sports teams that align with their gender identity is a good policy decision.

Kennedy offensively called trans girls “biological males” and asked if allowing trans girls to compete in female sports is just.

Garland declined to comment, saying: “I’ve not had the chance to consider these kinds of issues in my career so far, but I agree that it’s a difficult question.”

But, he said: “I think every human being should be treated with dignity and respect, and that’s an overriding sense of my own character but an overriding sense of what the law requires.”

At least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people died in 2020 by violent means, the majority being trans people of colour. The Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking reports of anti-trans violence for the past several years, said it had never “seen such a high number” of violent and senseless trans deaths as it had in 2020.

Despite this, American news outlets spent less than an hour covering anti-trans violence in 2020. The analysis of leading news outlets in the US found networks only discussed anti-trans violence for 54 minutes across 23 segments.

Merrick Garland shaped by his family’s experiences of antisemitism

Elsewhere in the session, Garland explained his motivation for wanting to confront hate and discrimination.

He shared how his grandparents “fled antisemitism and persecution”. Garland said the US “took us in and protected us”, so he wanted to give back to the country that gave his family so much.


Garland’s confirmation hearing continues, and he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this week.