Biden Health and Human Services imposes trans pronoun mandate on employees

HHS trans pronoun Admiral Rachel Levine, Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for health, announces new transgender guidelines. | Credit: HHSGov Internal YouTube channel

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services imposed a transgender pronoun mandate on its employees this week with new guidance that instructs employees to affirm any co-worker’s self-proclaimed gender identity and preferred pronouns.

“All employees should be addressed [by] the names and pronouns they use to describe themselves,” an HHS email sent to employees and shared with CNA read. The mandate is part of the department’s new Gender Identity and Non-Discrimination Guidance, which was established to outline “employee rights and protections related to gender identity,” according to the email.

In an unlisted YouTube video linked in the email, HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm said the policy ensures “that our colleagues are able to show up every day as their whole selves.” 

“I want to say clearly to every one of you: Who you are and who you know yourself to be is valid,” Palm continued. “We want you to be your authentic self every day, regardless of your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or disability status.”

Even though Palm briefly mentioned religion, neither the email nor the speakers in the video made any mention of accommodating or exempting employees who have religious objections to transgender ideology from the policy.

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, who is “an out and proud transgender woman” according to the video announcement, said this policy ensures that “all HHS employees, including transgender and nonbinary employees, have equal protections in the workplace.”

“All supervisors and managers are responsible for helping to ensure it is fully implemented across all [operating divisions] and [staff divisions],” Levine said.

Neither the email nor the video explained how the policy would be enforced or whether employees would be subject to disciplinary action if they violate the new policy.

CNA reached out to HHS to ask whether employees would face disciplinary action for violating the policy and whether employees with religious objections would receive accommodations or exemptions but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

HHS employs about 80,000 people in the United States and abroad. Its central office is in Washington, D.C., and it also has 10 regional offices.

Roger Severino, who served as the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights during former President Donald Trump’s administration, accused the HHS of a “compelled speech” mandate with the new policy.

Severino, who now serves as vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, told CNA HHS has “replaced science and evidence with ideology” with this policy. He argued that the agency is showing that it does not respect people who acknowledge “the biological and scientific reality of male and female” and warned it would be used to target Christian employees.

“It absolutely will [lead to targeting Christians] because the [Biden] administration has made it abundantly clear that it prioritizes gender ideology over free speech and religious freedom rights,” Severino said.

The new policy also has constitutional implications, according to Severino, who said: “Under the First Amendment, [the department] cannot compel people to speak falsehoods; it also cannot compel people to adopt as their own a state-approved ideology [and it] cannot require people of faith to deny their faith with their own lips.”

Severino argued that the HHS pronoun mandate is “in some ways the most egregious” effort from the Biden administration to force gender ideology on Americans because it seeks to force them to “violate their own conscience” or risk “being fired and losing their job.” He drew a comparison to the Roman persecutions of Christians, referencing the martyrs who “refused to give even a pinch of incense to Caesar [and] paid the ultimate price.”

“People should be prepared to file lawsuits to indicate their free speech and religious liberty rights and people of faith should flood HHS with religious accommodations requests and be prepared to defend themselves and their faith from this attack,” Severino said.

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In addition to the transgender pronoun mandate, the new HHS policy clarifies that workers can wear clothing and use restrooms that match their self-proclaimed gender identity, even if it does not match with their biological sex. 

The policy also calls for streamlining HHS’ IT systems to ensure that official records reflect any employee’s self-professed transgender identity. It also provides department-level coordination for anti-discrimination protections from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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