Texas ag. commissioner orders workers to wear clothes 'consistent with their biological gender'

ByPatrick Svitek and Alex Nguyen, The Texas Tribune
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Texas agriculture commissioner carries out anti-trans dress code
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller orders his employees to wear clothes that are consistent with their biological gender.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is ordering his employees to dress "in a manner consistent with their biological gender," the latest move by the state's Republican leaders against transgender people.

Miller issued the requirement as part of a "dress code and grooming policy" that is dated April 13. The Texas Tribune obtained a copy of the policy, which was first reported Monday by The Texas Observer.

Read Ag Commissioner Sid Miller's latest dress code policy:

The two-page policy applies to all employees for the agency that Miller leads, the Texas Department of Agriculture, as well as interns and contract employees. If anyone violates the policy, they will be asked to go home and change. If problems persist, the memo says, employees can face "remedies up to and including termination."

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said this dress code provision violates Title VII - which bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity - as well as the First Amendment's right to free expression and the 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."

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the policy.

The policy comes as LGBTQ advocates are fighting a wave of hostile legislation at the Capitol, including proposals to restrict gender-affirming care for transgender children. Miller has been a vocal proponent of such legislation.

GOP lawmakers have also been focused on drag shows. The Senate passed two bills earlier this month that would restrict drag performances that children attend or see.

Ricardo Martinez, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said the vague language is trying to enforce gender stereotypes.

"Are women no longer allowed to wear suits? Can men wear necklaces?" Martinez said. "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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