GOP Sen. Ted Budd demands State Department roll back requirement for employees to use preferred pronouns

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FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., is demanding the U.S. State Department rescind its requirement that employees use preferred pronouns and honorifics in the workplace. 

In August, the department rolled out new guidelines titled, ‘Updated Department Guidance Regarding Transgender Employees in the Workplace’ and mandates that all employees and applicants should be addressed ‘by the name, pronouns, and honorific (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Mx., etc.) that they themselves use in everyday interactions, and as they choose to communicate to their supervisor/manager and colleagues.’

‘Continued intentional use of an incorrect name, pronoun, and/or honorific – also known as misgendering – could, depending on its severity and pervasiveness, contribute to a hostile work environment allegation, and constitute misconduct subject to disciplinary action, up to and including separation or removal,’ the guideline states.

In the letter, Budd contended that Congress ‘never authorized’ the department to ‘impose such restrictions on employee speech’ and that several senators with religious convictions have voiced their concerns ‘stating that they cannot comply with this Guidance without violating their religious beliefs.’

‘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,’ Budd wrote Friday.

By Nov. 3, Budd wants State Department Secretary Antony Blinken to provide answers on the legal authority behind the guidance, potential exceptions based on religious or non-religious grounds, the process for employees to request exceptions, efforts made to inform employees about this process, and measures to prevent retaliation or mistreatment. 

Budd asked the department to justify — if there are no exceptions whether religious or non-religious — how this guidance aligns with the First Amendment. And he is seeking detailed information on the disciplinary process for alleged violations and the standards used to determine the seriousness of violations.

 ‘As Secretary Blinken has said, ‘When religious liberty is at risk,’ then ‘other freedoms are jeopardized as well.’ By threatening State Department employees with termination simply because they seek to live according to their beliefs, this guidance jeopardizes the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech – including the freedom not to speak – of all State Department employees,’ Budd told Fox News Digital in a statement. ‘I call on Secretary Blinken to publicly and immediately rescind this guidance so that State Department employees can do their vital work in this time of crisis without being in fear of losing their job.’ 

The letter is cosigned by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., James Lankford, R-Okla., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., JD Vance, R-Ohio and Roger Marshall, R-Kan.

Fox News Digital has reached out to the State Department for comment. 

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