Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn) have introduced bicameral legislation that would ban all federal government employees and federally funded entities from using anything other than a person’s legal name and the pronouns that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.
The bill, misleadingly named the Safeguarding Free Speech Act, was introduced in response to a new “Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants” issued in October by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This policy offers direction to ensure adherence to federal regulations prohibiting sex discrimination in employment and aims to cultivate a workplace that is welcoming and inclusive for all employees by mandating that HHS employees use the preferred names and pronouns of their colleagues.
The anti-transgender bill introduced by Cruz and Ogles would block federal funds from being used to implement such rules and would entitle federal employees and contractors to sue and collect damages of up to $100,000 if a federal agency requests that they use the preferred name and pronouns of a coworker. The bill’s co-sponsors include Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colorado), Eli Crane (Arizona), Doug LaMalfa (California), Andy Harris (Maryland) and Mary Miller (Illinois).
Cruz has a history of anti-LGBTQ actions; in the past, he has introduced a federal transgender sports ban and endorsed a judge known for his opposition to gay marriage. He has also claimed that “engaging in homosexual conduct is a choice,” and in 2015 reintroduced the State Marriage Defense Act, which would leave it up to states to define marriage.
Ogles is vocally anti-LGBTQ and, during pride month last June, introduced two anti-LGBTQ bills that would prohibit the use of federal education funds for performances or instruction by drag queens in K-12 schools and prohibit the use of federal funds for the creation of any federal forms that include gender options beyond “male” and “female.”
Last legislative session, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country, with more than 80 of these bills passing into law. Emboldened by assaults on LGBTQ rights at the state level, conservative lawmakers in both the Senate and the House have gained confidence to propose increasingly stringent federal anti-LGBTQ bills.
Republican lawmakers have advocated for anti-LGBTQ amendments, referred to as “riders,” to be included in essential federal appropriations bills. For example, in July Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) added a string of amendments to the must-pass Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill, HHS appropriations bill, and the defense appropriations bill that would ban federal funding for gender-affirming care and the hospitals that provide such care. In total, Republicans added riders on seven of the 12 House fiscal 2024 appropriations bills that would put restrictions on gender-affirming care, threatening to shut down the government if the bills don’t pass with the restrictions.
According to transgender activist Erin Reed, although these bills are likely to receive stiff pushback from Democrats, they are must-pass, leaving many transgender advocates concerned that Democrats may bargain away transgender rights in order to circumvent a government shutdown.
“[O]ne truth is becoming increasingly evident — as we venture into 2024, the Republican Party is unabashedly cementing anti-transgender policies into the bedrock of their platform,” Erin Reed said in July. “The question remains: will Democrats refuse to concede to anti-trans ultimatums in Republican hostage taking of the US Government?”
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