First Amendment

Texas Newspaper Virally Claims Ted Cruz Wanted To 'Limit' Preferred Pronouns. His Bill Doesn't Do That.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a bill last month that would bar federal agencies from forcing employees to respect preferred names or pronouns.


A headline published Thursday in the San Antonio Express-News claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) had introduced a bill that would "limit using preferred names, pronouns," noting that the senator himself uses a preferred nickname, not his legal name. The outlet tweeted a link to the article repeating the same claim, and it quickly racked up over 6 million views on X, formerly Twitter, by Friday afternoon.

"We already knew that Republicans were synonymous with hypocrisy, but this is so typical of them. How is it no one ever calls them out on it?" read one reply.

"I don't see how this is remotely constitutional," another commenter added.

But the bill Cruz introduced doesn't limit individuals' ability to respect preferred names or pronouns for transgender people. Instead, it would prohibit the government from enacting any rule forcing its employees to use preferred pronouns or names. Instead of compelling speech, the bill prevents the government from trying to compel speech from their employees.

While the article headline was eventually updated to accurately reflect the bill's content, the original viral post remains online at time of publication.

The "Safeguarding Honest Speech Act," introduced by Cruz and Rep. Andy Ogles (R–Tenn.) in November, states that "No Federal funds may be used for the purpose of implementing, administering, or enforcing any rule…requiring an employee or contractor of any Federal agency or Department to use—(1) another person's preferred pronouns if they are incompatible with such person's sex; or (2) a name other than a person's legal name when referring to such person."

And the bill would likely enforce already existing First Amendment protections.

"Public employees retain First Amendment rights to speak as private citizens, so insofar a pronoun use implicates a contentious social issue, the subject cannot fully avoid touching on a matter of public concern," reads a write-up from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a First Amendment nonprofit. "Government employers may not punish employees for their speech as private citizens on matters of public concern without establishing an interest in workplace efficiency…that outweighs the employee's expressive rights."

However, FIRE notes that some forms of refusing to use preferred names or pronouns, also called "misgendering," could fall under scrutiny. "Under workplace anti-discrimination law, knowingly and repeatedly using a colleague's non-preferred pronouns could be part of a pattern of conduct severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment." But even with this exception, "the government would not be justified in compelling employees to use certain pronouns."

While choosing not to use a transgender person's preferred name or pronouns may be considered rude or mean-spirited, outside of narrow exceptions, doing so is a form of First Amendment–protected speech.

It's also more than possible to criticize Cruz's position on transgender rights without making misleading claims about legislation he introduces.