The California Supreme Court will decide whether a state law making it illegal for healthcare workers to “misgender” nursing home patients is constitutional.
On October 4, 2017, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 219 into law.
The law enacts the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights, which makes “willfully and repeatedly failing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns” a crime.
According to the California Family Council, any healthcare worker who violates SB 219 could be “charged with a misdemeanor and subject to punishment of a $1000 fine, or even up to one year in jail.”
After the law was enacted, attorney David Llewellyn sued the state on behalf of the group Taking Offense. The group argued that the law violated workers “rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedoms of thought and belief.”
The California Third Appellate District Court of Appeals agreed with the group and struck down the pronoun stipulation in SB 219 because it was a “content-based restriction of speech that does not survive strict scrutiny.”
“We recognize the Legislature’s legitimate and laudable goal of rooting out discrimination against LGBT residents of long-term care facilities,” the court wrote. “But the Attorney General has not shown that criminalizing occasional, off-hand, or isolated instances of misgendering, that need not occur in the resident’s presence and need not have a harassing or discriminatory effect on the resident’s treatment or access to care, is necessary to advance that goal.”
Now, the California Supreme Court will consider the law.
While the bill was being debated in the California legislature, Greg Burt, Director of Capitol Engagement for the California Family Council asked members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, “How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?”
“Compelled speech is not free speech … True tolerance tolerates people with different views. We need to treat each other with respect, but respect is a two-way street. It is not respectful to threaten people with punishment for having sincerely held beliefs that differ from your own,” he added.
Those who suffer from gender dysphoria deserve to be treated with love and compassion. But it’s unjust for the state of California to penalize its citizens for believing that there are only two genders and don’t agree with the state’s Newspeak.
SB 219 may serve as a trial balloon for future and even more expansive restrictions on the freedom of speech in the Golden State.
If lawmakers can get away with criminalizing the biologically correct speech of some of its citizens, why couldn’t it punish the free speech of others?
And in case you think the battle over pronouns is confined to the uber-liberal state of California, think again.
The Daily Citizen recently reported that a high school freshman in Exeter, New Hampshire was punished for stating, while off campus, that there are only two genders.
You can read more about that story here.
Photo from Shutterstock.