Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

Jail time for pronoun misuse?

Sexuality | A California bill would punish ‘misgendering’ in nursing homes
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 9/08/17, 02:46 pm

A bill in California that would create a law making it a crime to “misgender” nursing home residents advanced in the state Assembly this week.

The bill, SB 219, passed the state Senate in May. Among other provisions, the proposed law would make it a criminal offense not to call elderly LGBT residents at nursing homes or intermediate-care facilities by their preferred names and pronouns. Offenders could face a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison.

Supporters say the measure, called the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-term Care Facility Residents Bill of Rights, would protect LGBT senior-care residents from discrimination and harassment. In addition to outlawing “willfully and repeatedly” failing to use a preferred name or pronoun, the bill would make it illegal to deny admission to a resident or evict a resident for their sexual orientation. It also would require facilities to open restrooms to individuals based on their gender identity.

Opponents point out three main issues with the proposed law.

First, they argue the criminalization of speech violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The bill would both restrict and compel speech, according to Amy Swearer, a visiting legal fellow at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation: “This is not simply a matter of limiting what a person may say, but compelling him or her under threat of government sanction—a criminal offense, no less—to actively speak in a way that violates his or her conscience before God.”

Greg Burt, the director of capitol engagement for the California Family Council, testified against the bill in a committee hearing. “How can you believe in free speech if you think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others, as this bill proposes?” he said.

Second, the bill includes no religious exemptions for individuals or faith-based facilities.

“Everyone is entitled to their religious view,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Weiner, according to National Review. But, he added, that view should not come into “a public space” or interfere with the law.

Not so, countered Swearer.

“For most religious communities, the refusal to affirm a person’s gender identity stems not from hatred of LGBT individuals, but rather from a deeply held conviction of who God is and what He has revealed about human nature,” she wrote. “These beliefs, and the right to act in accordance with them, lie at the very core of First Amendment protection.”

Finally, legal experts fear the scope of the law will only expand. After all, why should this so-called protection be applied only to elderly LGBT individuals in long-term senior care?

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, referenced a New York City Commission on Human Rights rule that an employer’s refusal to use individuals’ preferred names and pronouns constitutes “gender-based harassment.”

“It strikes me as pretty unlikely that, if this law is enacted, such prohibitions would be limited just to this scenario,” Volokh wrote in The Washington Post.

Associated Press/Photo by Rod McGuirk Associated Press/Photo by Rod McGuirk A demonstration in support of traditional marriage on Aug. 8 in Canberra, Australia

Nationwide vote on marriage moves ahead in Australia

Australia’s High Court on Thursday ruled that a national postal vote to gauge public opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage could proceed as planned. The ballots are set to be mailed next Tuesday.

LGBT advocates challenged the survey, asserting the unusual measure (it is not required by law, and its results are not binding on legislators) violated appropriations rules.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull advocated for the vote as a way to let “every Australian have their say” on an important social issue. But LGBT leaders argued Parliament should vote on the issue without an “unnecessary” postal vote.

“Fundamental rights should never be put to a popular vote,” said Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch.

Pro-family groups called the vote “a referendum on freedoms and radical LGBTQI sex education in schools.”

The Australian-based Coalition for Marriage is advocating for a no vote. Last week, the group released a national television ad featuring moms talking about compulsory LGBT school programs—boys being told they can wear dresses and children being asked to role-play same-sex relationships—arguing that in countries with legal gay marriage, parents lose their right to choose.

The group also warned that legal same-sex marriage would threaten religious freedom. While the government said it would ensure clergy members were not forced to officiate same-sex services, the coalition said everyday Australians remained at risk.

“Concerns about the impacts of the redefinition of marriage go far beyond the wedding ceremony or even the freedoms of wedding service providers like florists, bakers and photographers,” the group said on its website. It noted the effects of a change in law are also about “whether religious schools will be allowed to continue teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, whether faith-based charities will retain their tax-exempt status, or whether religious organizations will be allowed to continue to hire people who agree to publicly support their ethos.”

Most major polls have found a majority of citizens plan to vote in the postal survey and a majority also support legalizing same-sex marriage. Results of the survey will be released Nov. 15, and the Australian Parliament plans to vote on the issue Dec. 7. —K.C.

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No more skirts

A secondary school an hour south of London has issued a ban against girls wearing skirts. The new gender-neutral uniform policy—trousers for all—was implemented in part to accommodate a growing population of transgender students, headmaster Tony Smith told The Telegraph of London.

Smith said students also complained about having different uniforms, and some community members felt the girls’ skirts were too short: “So we decided to have the same uniform for everybody from Year 7.”

Some parents at Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, applauded the change, but others said the new rule discriminates against girls.

“My daughter said she has got a gender and it’s female, so being gender-neutral when she has got a gender is a big deal for her as she is proud to be a girl,” one parent told The Telegraph. “I feel girls should be allowed to wear skirts if they want to.” —K.C.

Marriage is good for your heart

Marriage helps people survive heart attacks, according to a new U.K. study. Researchers at Aston Medical School in Birmingham studied nearly 1 million adult patients hospitalized in England between 2000 and 2013. Of those who had heart attacks, married patients were 14 percent more likely to survive than unmarried patients.

Marriage is also protective: Among patients with high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure (the three biggest risk factors for heart disease), married patients were 16, 14, and 10 percent, respectively, more likely to be alive at the end of the study than single patients. —K.C.

California considers third gender

The California legislature is considering a law that would allow residents to choose one of three gender options on all official documents and IDs. Under the bill, called the Gender Recognition Act, residents who want to change their official gender would no longer have to prove they are undergoing treatment or medical procedures for a gender transition. Instead, they would simply have to submit an application and affidavit attesting that the changes were not being made for fraudulent reasons.

Oregon and Washington, D.C., passed similar laws this summer, but California’s measure would be the farthest-reaching, affecting all official documents.

The bill passed in the state Senate in May and is awaiting a vote in the state Assembly. —K.C.

Israeli court rules on marriage

The High Court of Justice in Israel last week rejected a petition to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The court said religious courts, not civil courts, had jurisdiction over marriage laws, and legislators, not judges, should decide whether Israel should recognize marriages not performed under religious auspices. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 09/08/2017 07:22 pm

    Re:  "'Fundamental rights should never be put to a popular vote,' said Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch."

    It just depends on whose rights they are referring to.  So much of what is going on now with this issue mirrors what happened with the liberalization of divorce laws more than a half century ago, and we know how that turned out for children.

    I would encourage prayer and financial donations to the coalition for marriage.  Polls are swinging towards upholding natural marriage.