CHEYENNE, Wyo. — U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis apologized Monday after getting booed and heckled for remarks she made on sexual identity during a University of Wyoming graduation speech.
A first-term Republican from deep-red Wyoming, Lummis said in Saturday’s speech in Laramie that human rights are derived from God but that government seeks to redefine many of them.
“Even fundamental, scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days,” Lummis said.
She paused and smiled while many in the crowd responded with boos and heckling.
“And I challenge those of you,” she continued. But she didn’t complete that thought, saying: “I’m not making a comment on the fact that there are people who transition between sexes.”
Lummis is a former congresswoman, state treasurer and University of Wyoming graduate who’s been prominent in Wyoming politics for decades. Until now, at least, she has been less outspoken than many Republicans who’ve made a major issue of gender and sex identity.
The stir happened in a community known for the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, a watershed event in LGBTQ activism. A college town of about 32,000 people, Laramie leans left compared to the vast majority of Wyoming.
“Intersex members of our community who have diverse chromosomal makeup should be seen and recognized,” leaders of the university’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said in a statement Monday. “We deeply regret the harmful impact these words at our graduation ceremony may have had on those graduating as well as their families and friends.”
Scientific research has cast doubt on a solid biological line between male and female. Lummis did not answer an emailed question Monday asking if she could cite published, peer-reviewed research showing the existence of two sexes as a “fundamental” biological truth.
Lummis sought with her “reference to the existence of two sexes” to highlight that “the metric of biological sex” is being debated, she said in a statement.
“I share the fundamental belief that women and men are equal, but also acknowledge that there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized. That being said, it was never my intention to make anyone feel unwelcomed or disrespected, and for that I apologize,” Lummis said.
The school “supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are,” university President Ed Seidel said in a statement.