GOP senator booed at university commencement speech apologizes for "two genders" comment

During her speech, Sen. Cynthia Lummis said that the "two sexes" are a "fundamental scientific truth"

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published May 17, 2022 9:37AM (EDT)

U.S. Sen Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)  (Marco Bello/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) (Marco Bello/Getty Images)

Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican, apologized on Sunday after being booed during a weekend commencement address for claiming that the "two sexes" are a "fundamental scientific truth."

Lummis claimed that "it was never my intention to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected," reported Oil City News. "My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality," the lawmaker added. 

Speaking at the University of Wyoming's graduation ceremony, the GOP lawmaker implied that America's constitutional rights are being stripped away as a result of left-wing ideology on sex and gender. Lummis went on to say that "even fundamental scientific truths, such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days." 

Her comment was immediately booed by the student body. University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Laramie in 1998, a pivotal movement in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. 

"You know, I — I challenge those of you," Lummis continued on, directly addressing the graduating students. "I'm not making a comment on the fact that there are people who transition between sexes," she added before trailing off to another subject.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

After the address, University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel released a statement addressing Lummis' remarks.

"One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with," he said. "While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are."

The lawmaker's comments come as Republican-led states continue to enact sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country. Dozens of states have banned trans students from playing sports that correspond to their gender and receiving gender-affirming care. Many have instituted vague restrictions on the educational "instruction" of race, sex, and gender, deputizing aggrieved parents to take action against public school teachers and officials who contravene state law. 

RELATED: Ron DeSantis' war on "woke" Disney is really an attack on core American values

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

MORE FROM Jon Skolnik