The “Safeguarding Free Speech Act” introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Friday would entitle federal employees and contractors to sue for, and collect, damages of up to $100,000 if a federal agency or department forces them to use biologically-inaccurate personal pronouns.
Cruz announced the bicameral legislation’s introduction in a press release, explaining that the bill “would prohibit federal agencies from forcing an employee or contractor to use personal pronouns that contradict with an individual’s biological sex.”
Cruz attributes the bill to a new government policy that he says violates employees’ constitutional rights to both free speech and freedom of religion:
“On October 11th, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new ‘Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants.’
“Among many other harmful changes, this policy compelled speech by requiring employees and contractors with HHS to call other employees by their ‘preferred pronouns,’ even if those pronouns do not align with biological reality.
“This speech mandate violates the First Amendment by compelling government employees and contracts to affirm the idea that a person’s ‘gender identity’ can be separated from their biological sex. Aside from being a violation of the Free Speech Clause, it is also a violation of the Free Exercise Clause, as anybody who has religious convictions that differ from HHS’s view on human sexuality would be forced to publicly deny their faith.”
The specific language of the bill forbids “Requiring an employee or contractor of any Federal agency or Department to use another person’s preferred pronouns if they are incompatible with such person’s sex; or a name other than a person’s legal name when referring to such person.”
The bill enables a court to award compensatory damages and attorney fees – and punitive or exemplary damages of up to $100,000:
In any action under this subsection, the court may award appropriate relief, including –
(A) temporary, preliminary, or permanent injunctive relief;
(B) compensatory damages;
(C) punitive or exemplary damages, which may not exceed $100,000; and
(D) reasonable fees for attorneys.