Senators Challenge State Department’s Gender Pronoun Requirement

Secretary of State Antony Blinken / Photo © Cateyeperspective | Dreamstime.com

A group of 11 U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), has issued a formal letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, challenging the recent State Department guidance concerning the use of gender pronouns in the workplace.

The guidance mandates using an employee’s preferred pronouns, and non-compliance could result in disciplinary action, including potential termination.

Health and Human Services issued a similar policy for its employees last week.

The Senators argue that this directive could infringe upon the First Amendment rights of State Department employees, allowing them to freely discuss matters of public concern without any compulsion from the government.

The letter further alleges that this guidance may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, creating a potentially hostile work environment for those who dissent based on religious beliefs.

In addition, they contend that the guidance potentially breaches the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by compelling employees to act in ways that might be against their religious convictions.

“First, Congress never authorized the State Department to impose such restrictions on employee speech. But even if Congress did so, this Guidance would be arguably unconstitutional. Specifically, this Guidance infringes upon the First Amendment rights of State Department employees, as recognized by the Supreme Court, to speak openly on matters of public concern and to be free from government-compelled speech, including government-compelled affirmation of contested political, social, and religious ideas,” the letter states in part.

The Senators involved in this challenge are:

– Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC)

– Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

– Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)

– Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

– Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

– Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)

– Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)

– Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)

– Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)

– Sen. JD Vance (R-OH)

– Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)

The letter calls on Secretary Blinken, who had previously stated his commitment to welcoming dissent within the State Department and recognizing the importance of religious liberty, to rescind the said guidance.

It also demands clarity on how the Department plans to address potential conflicts that might arise between this directive and local cultural beliefs, especially for foreign national employees in host countries.

Concluding the letter, the Senators have requested a formal written response by November 3, 2023. The State Department has yet to issue a statement in response to the Senators’ concerns.

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