Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

California embraces gender identity laws

Sexuality | Pro-family groups say four new laws threaten religious liberty
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 10/20/17, 01:29 pm

The California legislature was a battleground for gender identity issues this year. Four landmark gender bills passed the state Senate and Assembly by the time the session ended Sep. 15, and California Gov. Jerry Brown signed all four this month.

On Oct. 4, Brown signed a bill that criminalizes long-term care facility employees’ “misgendering” of residents. The bill requires workers use transgender residents’ preferred pronouns and mandates that residents be allowed to self-identify their gender and use shared bedrooms and restrooms based on their gender identity, not biological sex.

Religious liberty advocates, including the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute, said the bill threatened faith-based nursing homes and residential facilities with staff members who believe gender is unchangeable. After these groups pointed out the lack of religious liberty exemptions in a committee hearing for the bill, its author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, decried the “highly radical notion” that “religious views can create an exemption from complying with civil rights laws.”

“This is a movement in this country to try to completely gut civil rights protections and gender protections in the name of religion,” Wiener said.

In a case of strange bedfellows, two weeks ago the radical feminist group the Women’s Liberation Front issued a statement condemning the law because it “takes away the basic human rights of elderly and disabled women and girls to have a safe and private place away from men to use the toilet, shower, and sleep while in long-term medical care.”

On Oct. 15, the deadline for Brown to either sign or veto all bills, Brown signed the remaining three gender bills.

The “Gender Recognition Act” makes it easier for citizens to request a legal gender change on their birth certificates and introduces a third gender category, nonbinary, for state identification documents. Instead of requiring medical treatment and a court appearance, California will now require adults seeking a gender change just to submit an affidavit to the State Registrar. The bill also simplifies the process for parents to legally change the gender of their children.

Similarly, Senate Bill 310 makes it easier for a person in state prison to file a petition for a name or gender change. Existing law prohibits a prisoner from doing so without the permission of the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Pro-family advocates argue the state legislature is methodically erasing biological gender from public discourse, a “fundamental breakdown of language.”

“Is gender a real thing, or the description of a feeling?” asked Greg Burt, director of capitol engagement for the California Family Council, a group that actively opposed all four measures.

“We believe government documents need to reflect biological facts for identification and medical purposes,” said Jonathan Keller, California Family Council CEO. “Secondly, the bill advances a falsehood; that being male or female, or no gender at all is a choice each person must make, not a fact to celebrate and accept. Laws like this will simply erase any meaningful gender definitions if being male or female is completely divorced from biological facts.”

The final measure, Senate Bill 396, expands transgender rights in the workplace. The bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to mandate training every two years on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation harassment. The measure also requires employers to display a poster on transgender rights and adds transgender and gender-nonconforming to the definition of an “individual with employment barriers” so they can use special state-designated services and programs.

Associated Press/Photo by Chuck Burton, file Associated Press/Photo by Chuck Burton, file Roy Cooper

North Carolina governor bargains with LGBT advocates

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday proposed a deal to put an end to a challenge by LGBT advocates against a law passed to replace the state’s so-called bathroom bill.

North Carolina lawmakers in March worked out a compromise to replace HB2, the controversial measure passed in March 2016 requiring, among many things, that transgender people use the restrooms in public buildings that match the sex on their birth certificates. The new law, HB142, eliminated that requirement but also said only the General Assembly, not local governments or school districts, could make rules for public restrooms and that local governments cannot enact new nondiscrimination rules for businesses until December 2020.

LGBT advocates filed suit again, claiming the new law was still discriminatory.

Wednesday’s consent decree by Cooper attempts to appease LGBT advocates by allowing transgender people to use the restrooms of their choice in public buildings of executive branch agencies, like transportation and Medicaid.

A judge will rule on the settlement. The LGBT plaintiffs said they would drop the suit if the judge approved the decree.

Also on Wednesday, Cooper issued an executive order prohibiting the departments under his control and their contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The order would affect 55,000 state employees and 3,000 vendors for up to $1.5 billion in contracts, according to the governor’s office.

Republican leaders condemned Cooper’s two-part plan as backtracking.

“Roy Cooper made a deal with the business community and the legislature to repeal HB2 and put divisive social issues that North Carolinians are sick of hearing about behind us, and his attempt to resurrect these issues shows he acted in bad faith,” said House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, both Republicans. “We trust the court will reject the governor’s latest stunt.” —K.C.

SaveSave An Orthodox church in Kalavryta, Greece

Greek churches protest gender identity law

Churches across a western Greek diocese of the Orthodox church are ringing their bells every day this week to mourn the passage of a new law making it easier for people to change their gender. The law, passed last week, allows Greeks older than 15 to change their gender on official identification cards through a simple court process, removing requirements for psychiatric assessments and surgery.

From Sunday to Saturday of this week, Metropolitan Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta directed clerics in his diocese to ring their church bells at noon for three minutes.

“It is an outrageous inspiration for someone to change his gender in a few minutes, with a simple declaration, so contrary to what God has gifted people with,” read a statement released by the clerics Sunday. The statement also said those with “gender dysphoria” are “mentally ill” and condemned homosexuality as a “deadly sin.” —K.C.

Church upholds First Communion dress code

A Catholic church in Indiana is taking heat for sticking to a dress code that requires girls to wear dresses to their first Holy Communion.

Cady Mansell, 9, wanted to wear a white pantsuit to her ceremony Oct. 1 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John, Indiana. She reportedly doesn’t like dresses—they are too itchy. When the church got wind of her desire, the priest told her parents Cady would not be allowed to take communion in a suit.

Her mom took to Facebook with her frustration, supporters rallied, and the story went viral.

Last week, the church released a statement explaining the decision. “St. John the Evangelist uniformly enforces dress codes at our parish school and for religious rites,” the statement read, adding church officials often receive requests for exceptions but have “consistently chosen to adhere to the dress code rather than allowing a myriad of exceptions to it.” —K.C.

Sexual violence victims speak out on social media

Millions of people around the world have used a viral hashtag started Sunday by actress Alyssa Milano to draw attention to sexual violence. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, Milano encouraged women who had been the victims of sexual harassment or assault to write #MeToo in their social media statuses.

The trend inspired two-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney on Wednesday to go public with accusations of abuse against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Maroney said Nassar sexually molested her starting in her early teens and continuing throughout her career. In recent years, over 125 women have sued Nassar for alleged abuse. He is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. —K.C.


Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

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