Prison for Pronouns: California’s New Law on Speech


Living out conservative values continues to become more and more difficult in California, where Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill last Thursday that criminalizes referring to a person who identifies as transgender by his or her given name and sex at long-term nursing facilities.

SB 219 criminalizes “[w]here rooms are assigned by gender… refusing to assign a room to a transgender resident other than in accordance with the transgender resident’s gender identity,” or “willfully and repeatedly fail[ing] to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns.”

These new requirements are not only enforceable with civil penalties, but violations are punishable by fines and even imprisonment. Not only that, but the new law outsources training on these sensitive issues to an ideologically-driven non-governmental website. The bill mandates “existing employees and new hires” be given access to “Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults,” which is available on the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging’s website.

Senator Scott Wiener (D), who introduced the bill in the California State Senate, was reportedly made aware of free exercise of religion concerns that accompany these new mandates, and stated:

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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.

This is certainly a different view of the First Amendment than the Founding Fathers had in mind.

In fact, the Department of Justice reminded us in a memorandum it released on Friday that “James Madison explained in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, the free exercise of religion ‘is in its nature an unalienable right’ because the duty owed to one’s Creator ‘is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.'”

Certainly, James Madison would disagree with California Senator Wiener that a person who enters a public space must set his religious views about sex and sex orientation aside.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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