Abbott tells Texas state agencies to stop using diversity initiatives, calls them illegal

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told state agencies to stop using diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in hiring, claiming doing so is illegal, The Texas Tribune reported Friday.

The Tribune obtained a memo that Gardner Pate, Abbott’s chief of staff, wrote to state agencies on Monday saying that the initiatives violate federal and state employment laws and illegally discriminate against certain demographics. 

Pate did not specify which groups he was referring to, according to the Tribune. 

“The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others,” Pate said. 

Republican lawmakers in several states throughout the country have also pushed back against diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and critical race theory — a theory that posits racism underlies American institutions and public policies — alleging that they unfairly discriminate against white people. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion programs have been designed to provide support for certain communities that have historically faced discrimination in public and private spheres. 

“Rebranding this employment discrimination as ‘DEI’ doesn’t make the practice any less illegal,” Pate wrote. “Further, when a state agency spends taxpayer dollars to fund offices, departments, or employee positions dedicated to promoting forbidden DEI initiatives, such actions are also inconsistent with the law.” 

ABC News reported that the memo said the funding of these programs is also illegal, and argued that the programs worsen discrimination instead of addressing it. 

A spokesperson for Abbott’s office told ABC that the memo is a “reminder” that state agencies and public universities need to follow federal and state law in hiring.  

“The issue is not diversity—the issue is that equity is not equality. Here in Texas, we give people a chance to advance based on talent and merit,” they said. 

Andrew Eckhous, an attorney based in Austin, told the Tribune that Abbott’s office is “completely mischaracterizing” these programs’ role in hiring decisions. 

“Anti-discrimination laws protect all Americans by ensuring that employers do not make hiring decisions based on race, religion, or gender, while DEI initiatives work in tandem with those laws to encourage companies to solicit applications from a wide range of applicants, which is legal and beneficial,” he said. 

A Texas state representative also introduced a bill last year to bar state funding from going to any “office of diversity, equity, and inclusion” or an office that supports those goals, the Tribune reported.

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