After quietly losing all its staff last year, Equality Arizona—one of the state’s longest running LGBTQ+ advocacy orgs—faced closure. But a familiar face brought it back, and not everyone is OK with it.
State education department bars gender identifiers for staff
A leaked email to LOOKOUT shows that the state's top education officials are attempting to single out trans and nonbinary staff by not allowing gender markers in email signatures.
As the heated conversation around gender pronouns continues—specifically among students and teenagers—the state's top education officials are using their powers to implement guidelines that bar adults from identifying their gender in official emails.
In a requirement that seemingly singles out trans or nonbinary people, Arizona’s Department of Education under Superintendent Tom Horne issued guidance this morning that orders state employees not use gender identifiers in their email signatures.
A screenshot from an email named “The Last Bell,” which appears to be a departmental email sent out to employees, explicitly laid out how signatures should be written:
“How we write can say a lot about us,” read the email. “When at work though—and in today’s electronic age—it’s important to confirm that your official [Arizona Department of Education] email signature block meets agency required standards.”
The standards include that employees “should not include identifying pronouns.”
LOOKOUT reached out to Horne’s communications team to see who made the decision, why it was made, and what repercussions staff face if they include their pronouns in email signatures. The department's communication team responded that: "This was an executive decision of the department, and there is no punishment. It’s a matter of consistency much in the way that we do not want one person to have an email signature in Calibri font another with Times New Roman, one with a personal message or artwork, etc."
This is far from Horne's first dabble into trans and nonbinary issues at his department. The superintendent is pursuing a lawsuit individually after a federal judge put a stay on restrictions for trans teenagers playing on girl’s team sports. He also was the guest of honor at an event in Mesa hosted by Moms for Liberty, which has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and whose leaders have made homophobic statements and condoned quoting Adolf Hitler.
In a phone conversation last year with LOOKOUT, Horne said that he has been active in supporting gays and lesbians in the past. But his campaign for superintendent—and even his past work as Attorney General— runs counter to his claims.
Particularly among sports, though, Horne main focus is only when trans women are involved. When asked multiple times why he hasn't given any focus to trans boys in school sports, he told LOOKOUT that trans men don't have the same unfair advantage.
During his time as Attorney General, Horne aided the Alliance Defending Freedom to defend Arizona’s ban on gay marriage. The alliance is also designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and has been successful in challenging and reversing local school board decisions to not renew contracts with religious groups who espouse anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.