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A California appeals court ruled that a law requiring nursing home staff to use transgender residents' preferred pronouns violates the First Amendment.
The law was struck down on Friday in a 3-0 decision by the Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeal. The court held that the law was a “content-based restriction on speech” that unconstitutionally requires nursing staff to express a message they may not wish to.
“The pronoun provision at issue here tests the limits of the government’s authority to restrict pure speech that, while potentially offensive or harassing to the listener, does not necessarily create a hostile environment,” Judge Elena Duarte wrote in the decision.
The law was part of the 2017 LGBTQ Long-Term Care Facility Residents' Bill of Rights. Supporters blasted the decision as a setback for transgender rights.
"The Court's decision is disconnected from the reality facing transgender people," the bill's author, state Sen. Scott Wiener said of the court's decision. "Deliberately misgendering a transgender person isn't just a matter of opinion, and it's not simply 'disrespectful, discourteous, or insulting.' Rather, it's straight-up harassment."
"And, it erases an individual's fundamental humanity, particularly one as vulnerable as a trans senior in a nursing home," Wiener added. "This misguided decision cannot be allowed to stand."
The law would have given nursing home workers a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 for refusing to use a resident's preferred gender pronouns for a "prolonged" period. The bill's supporters argued the extreme punishment would only occur in rare circumstances.
"Let's be clear: Refusing to use someone's correct name and pronouns isn't an issue of free speech — it's a hateful act that denies someone their dignity and truth," said Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of Equality California, an organization that sponsored the original bill. "California's nursing home patients deserve better than this — and we'll be fighting until this decision is overturned."
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Original Author: Matthew Miller