Last month, Canada passed a law that threatens anyone refusing to use transgender pronouns with fines and jail time. Not to be outdone, a state senator from San Francisco has a similar proposal, SB 219, here in California nearing final approval that is getting almost no attention.
Greg Burt, with the California Family Council, testified against SB 219 last Tuesday, a bill that will inflict fines and jail time on any long-term care employee who refuses to use transgender pronouns. Fines for repeat offenders could be as high as $1000, with a jail term of up to a year.
“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others,” Burt asked members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee during his testimony. “Compelled speech is not free speech. Can the government compel a newspaper to use certain pronouns that aren’t even in the dictionary? Of course not, or is that coming next?”
According to the text of SB 219, titled the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights, “it shall be unlawful for a long-term care facility or facility staff to…. willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.”
According to the bill text, the punishment for violators is spelled out in the California Health and Safety Code provisions under Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly Chapter 3.2. It reads, “1569.40. (a) Any person who violates this chapter, or who willfully or repeatedly violates any rule or regulation adopted under this chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.”
SB 219 also mandate bathrooms and rooming situations be designated by gender identity and not biological sex. There are no exemptions for long term care facility run by religious institutions who integrate their beliefs about gender into their policies and practices.
“Those proposing this bill are saying, ‘If you disagree with me about my view of gender, you are discriminating against me,'” Burt testified. “This is not tolerance. This is not love. This is not mutual respect… 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.”
Senator Wiener responded during the hearing to this critique, saying that his bill was only reinforcing the civil rights laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination. “The argument that religious views can create an exemption for civil rights laws or complying with civil rights laws is a highly radical notion,” Wiener told committee members. “Everyone is entitled to their religious view, but when you enter the public space; when you are running an institution, you are in a workplace, you are in a civil setting, and you have to follow the law.”
The Bill passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee with no one voting against it. Voting yes were Assembly members: Chau, Chiu, Cristina Garcia, Holden, Kalra, Maienschein, Reyes, Mark Stone, Ting. Deciding not to vote at all were Assembly members Kiley and Cunningham.
The bill author is Senator Scott Wiener and the bill sponsor is Equality California. For more information about this bill click here.
Click here to watch the entire hearing.