Three of Colorado’s Republican congressional candidates welcomed support from PACs fighting to limit or ban transwomen in sports

The PAC supports policies that many states have passed into law, ones that opponents say harm trans youth.

Nine PAC — the name is a reference to Title IX, the law that requires schools to include women in their athletic programs — is the brainchild of Eli Bremer, a former Olympic pentathlon competitor from Colorado Springs. He says the goal is to donate to 100 congressional candidates before the midterm elections.

“It’s about women under Title IX, under federal law, have and must maintain the integrity of their sports,” Bremer said. “These sports should be reserved for biological females, for girls to compete for scholarships against other biological girls. And that’s what we stand for.”

Trans people and their allies consider terms like “biological women” to be inaccurate and often offensive, especially when used to exclude trans people from their gender. Colorado protects the right of trans people to compete in school sports. But 18 other states have passed laws or rules to limit or ban their participation, policies that opponents say harm trans youth who are already vulnerable to harassment and discrimination in other areas of their lives.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Gannal (left) and Nine PAC co-chair Riley Gaines prepare for an interview at Nine PAC’s fundraising event.

Bremer also made opposition to transwomen in sports central to a failed U.S. Senate bid earlier this year.

In a comment in response to his candidacy, Maike Babel, a former professional tennis player from Germany, wrote:

“Compared to cisgender athletes, trans athletes face discrimination and alienating rules that cisgender people can’t even fathom. Transathletes deserve to play like any other athlete. Anyone who struggles to be themselves on and off the field or court is a role model of inner strength and resilience. As athletes and as human beings, we learn from each other when we are around people who accept who they are.”

Three Republican candidates pledged to support the PAC’s goals — such as preventing trans female athletes from competing in women’s sports — and collected novelty checks from the group.

On the night of the filing, three Colorado Republican candidates were ready to make a verbal pledge to support the group’s goals and collect huge novelty checks for the $2,900 that Nine PAC gives to their campaigns — Barbara Kirkmeier, who is running for the new 8th in Colorado County, Eric Adland, running in CO-7, and Steve Monahan, running in the 6th Congressional District.

All three pledged to work to prevent transgender women from competing in women’s sports or using women’s locker rooms.

Adland noted that he has three children, including two daughters, and is running in part to protect their future.

“The truth is we have lost our common sense as a society,” he said. “The fact that we’re having this discussion right here tonight and that it’s taking over the airwaves is almost unbelievable to me because we have bigger things to focus on, but right now we have to fight this battle because radical progressives have brought a narrative , which just doesn’t make sense and the world is turned upside down.”

The pledge was administered by former All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, who co-chairs the PAC with Bremer.

Gaines has become a leading opponent of transgender athletes participating in NCAA women’s competition. While competing for the University of Kentucky, Gaines tied with University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas for fifth in the 200-yard freestyle. A day earlier, Thomas won a national championship with a victory in the 500-yard freestyle.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Nine PAC Executive Director Riley Scott, Nine PAC Co-Chairs Riley Gaines and Eli Bremer look on as Colorado Congressional Candidate Barbara Kirkmeier addresses the crowd.

“I was waiting and waiting for someone to say something because, as a 22-year-old girl, I didn’t necessarily feel like this was my place,” Gaines told the crowd. “I didn’t feel prepared for it. I still don’t feel ready for all that. But I was so sick of waiting. So I took it upon myself to talk about how crazy this is.

In an interview with ABC News, Thomas said she delayed the transition out of fear of losing her chance to compete in swimming, starting hormone therapy only after experiencing debilitating depression during her sophomore year.

“Trans people don’t transition into athletics,” she told the ABC. “We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves. And transitioning to get an advantage is not something that ever affects our decisions.”

Since then, World Swimming’s governing body has effectively banned transgender women from competing in women’s events.

One GOP consultant calls the PAC focus “problem number 742,000.” Colorado’s first trans lawmaker says PAC is “a problem looking for a problem.”

During his campaign for the GOP Senate nomination earlier this year, Bremer made participation in transportation a centerpiece of his campaign. But GOP political consultant Tyler Sandberg said that’s certainly not the top issue for most GOP voters in Colorado.

“I would say that fairness in sports is something that everyone cares about. But in terms of priorities, it’s problem number 742,000,” Sandberg said. “Inflation, cost of living, crime. These are questions that spark debate in the capital, spark debate among families at the dinner table.

Even if it’s not top of mind for most voters, Sandberg doesn’t think the PAC’s support will necessarily hurt those candidates. A recent NPR/Ipsos poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing transgender women and girls to compete on women’s sports teams.

However, Sandberg doesn’t expect those GOP candidates to make it a priority if elected, “because the policy is right and should focus on lowering the cost of living, improving public safety.”

However, if they win and take up the issue, they will not be alone in the delegation. Western Slope Republican Rep. Lauren Bobert introduced a number of anti-transgender bills during her first term, including one to strip Leah Thomas of her national title. No one went anywhere in the Democratic-controlled House.

At the state level, Colorado’s Republican lawmakers have not focused on transgender issues. In recent years, the state has actually taken steps toward increasing the rights of transgender people, such as making it easier for people to change the gender on their birth certificates and allowing non-binary language on state ID cards.

COLORADO-LEGISLATION-DISCOVERY-DAY-TITONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
State Rep. Brianna Titone on the floor as the Colorado General Assembly opened its 2021 session on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

State Democrat Brianna Titone, Colorado’s first trans lawmaker, says the PAC is a problem looking for a problem.

“It’s not an epidemic of trans women coming out as trans to compete in sports and beat everyone. It’s like it’s an absurd thing,” said Titone, who described bans on trans athletes as another way to discriminate against students who simply want to participate in sports.

“There aren’t enough trans people in the communities for people to know who we are. And when they don’t know something and they don’t know someone and they can’t put a face to a name or an idea, it’s easy to perpetuate those tropes,” Titone said.

Bremer argued that the Nine PAC is not anti-trans, arguing that “it’s nothing about that. It is about protecting the integrity of women’s sport.

He said he sees the PAC as part of a longer-term effort to educate people.

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