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Texas Ag Department Imposes 'Biological Gender' Dress Code on Employees

Texas Ag Department Imposes 'Biological Gender' Dress Code on Employees

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller
Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller

The new wording is aimed at transgender employees and will affect cisgender ones too.

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The Texas Department of Agriculture has issued a dress code stating that employees must dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”

The wording, which was not in the dress code previously, makes it “clear that the new policy is intended to single out queer and trans employees for censure,” the Texas Observer reports. The Observer notes that it “continues Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign of anti-LGBTQ+ oppression.” The code will also affect cisgender workers who favor gender-neutral clothing, the publication points out.

The new code is dated April 13 and was distributed to employees a few days later. It has the stamp of approval of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. It’s not clear if it originated with Miller, Abbott, or someone else in state government. Neither the Department of Agriculture nor the governor’s office commented to local media on the matter, which was reported by the Observer and The Texas Tribune Monday. But Miller has supported the anti-LGBTQ+ bills and policies put forth by other state officials.

Noncompliance with the dress code carries penalties “up to and including termination,” the document states.

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Texas affiliate, told the Tribune it violates Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids sex discrimination. In 2020’s Bostock v. Clayton Countyruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the definition of sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. One of the plaintiffs in that case, Aimee Stephens, had been fired from her job as a funeral director because of her gender transition and her intention to present as a woman at work. Her employer said she violated the dress code.

Klosterboer also said the Texas policy runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution — the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“State agencies should be focused on doing their jobs and not discriminating against their own employees and trying to make political statements through their agency regulations,” he said. “There is no important governmental interest that this can meet.”

Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez denounced the policy as well. “Are women no longer allowed to wear suits? Can men wear necklaces?” Martinez told the Tribune. “While this policy was clearly designed to target transgender employees, it will have a negative impact on everyone. Any policy that is designed to target a specific group degrades the whole department. Texans deserve better.”

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.