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On World AIDS Day, New Mexico activists say more money is needed for prevention; ND farmers still navigate corporate land-ownership policy maze; Unpaid caregivers in ME receive limited financial grants.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Israel to protect civilians amid Gaza truce talks, New York Rep. George Santos defends himself as his expected expulsion looms and CDC director warns about respiratory illness as flu season begins.

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Congress has iced the Farm Bill, but farmer advocates argue some portions are urgent, the Hoosier State is reaping big rewards from wind and solar, and opponents react to a road through Alaska's Brooks Range, long a dream destination for hunters and anglers.

Texas Ag Department Issues 'Biological Gender' Dress Code

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Thursday, April 27, 2023   

New lawsuits are likely coming in Texas as LGBTQ+ people working for the state are now being targeted in dress code regulations.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has issued an order to his employees to dress "in a manner consistent with their biological gender" as part of a dress code and grooming policy.

Brian Klosterboer, attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said the new policy violates Title Seven, which bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well the First Amendment's right to free expression and the Equal Protection Clause.

"Unfortunately, it sends a pretty devastating message to people who work at this department that they're not welcome if they deviate at all from gender stereotypes," Klosterboer stressed.

The memo, dated April 13 and signed by Miller, said those found to be in violation will be asked to go home and change. It further states those who do not adhere can face "remedies up to and including termination." The agency's previous dress code restrictions did not reference "biological gender."

Klosterboer believes state agencies should be focused on doing their jobs, not trying to make political points by discriminating against their own employees.

"They're trying to take us a back in time to the decades when the government and private employers could, and openly did, discriminate based on gender," Klosterboer argued. "But that really defies modern court precedent, as well as the regulation from federal agencies."

As agriculture commissioner, Miller is known for his fondness of Western wear. His new dress code encourages Western business attire, including boots - but not open-toed shoes for women.

"It's just pretty absurd that people are allowed to wear Western wear, but not to dress consistently with their gender identify," Klosterboer contended. "And it's unclear and vague how they're even going to enforce this. Are they going to be picking and choosing between cowboy hats? Which one is too masculine or feminine?"

The Agriculture Commissioner has previously advocated for statewide legislation to restrict gender-affirming care for transgender children.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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