Texas Senator Ted Cruz has proposed legislation to halt the use of preferred names or pronouns for transgender individuals, despite the fact that he himself uses a preferred name. While his legal name is Rafael Edward Cruz, the senator has been known by his preferred name, Ted, for an extended period.
Teaming up with Representative Andy Ogles from Tennessee, Cruz introduced the Safeguarding Honest Speech Act in November. The bill seeks to prevent the allocation of funds for any regulations or policies mandating federal entities or employees to address individuals by their preferred pronouns or any name other than their legal name.
The legislation was prompted by the introduction of the “Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants” by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in October. The HHS policy advocates addressing all employees by the names and pronouns they use to describe themselves.
Cruz contends that the HHS policy infringes upon the First Amendment by compelling government employees to affirm a person’s gender identity independently of their biological sex. He also argues that the policy violates the rights of individuals with “religious convictions” differing from those of the health department, who might be compelled to publicly deny their faith.
In a statement on November 17, Cruz asserted, “Forcing anyone to use pronouns that don’t accord with a person’s biological sex is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The government has no business compelling anyone to use pronouns that contradict biological reality.” The proposed bill empowers courts to grant damages and attorney fees of up to $100,000.
Critics and advocates have strongly condemned Cruz’s legislation, highlighting the inconsistency in his stance. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, stated in response to the bill, “This latest attempt by Senator Cruz, who does not go by his own legal name, to prohibit the federal government, the nation’s largest employer, from respecting employees’ authentic name and pronouns, is not only dangerous and demeaning, it’s hypocritical.”