The California Third District Court of Appeals decided on Friday that a 2017 transgender policy requiring nursing home workers to address transgender patients by their preferred names and pronouns infringed on workers' free speech rights. The transgender policy, Senate Bill 219, was struck down after a unanimous vote of 3 to 0.
According to NBC News, S.B. 219 was written to provide protections against discrimination or mistreatment based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of long-term care facility residents. However, the California Court decided to overturn part of the law that prevented facility employees from "willfully and repeatedly using anything other than residents' preferred names and pronouns." The court decided that this violated the employees' free speech rights.
"The law compels long-term care facility staff to alter the message they would prefer to convey," the California court reasoned, saying that the prohibition "burdens speech more than is required" to allow the state to protect transgender individuals from discrimination and harrassment on the basis of sex.
While Associate Justice Elena Duarte said in behalf of the three-judge panel that it "may be disrespectful, discourteous, and insulting" to address residents by their birth names and biological pronoun, it can also be a way for residents to "express an ideological disagreement with another person's expressed gender identity."
The Blaze reported that S.B. 219 may have punished whoever violated the law with a year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines for "prolonged" abuse involving the misuse of preferred pronouns under the legislation's provisions. The bill's sponsors argued that such punishment will only be ordered in the most extreme cases. One of the sponsors of S.B. 219, Equality California, decried the California Court's unanimous ruling.
"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," Equality California executive director Rick Chavez Zbur argued. "California's nursing home patients deserve better than this - and we'll be fighting until this decision is overturned."
Democrat Senator Scott Weiner of San Francisco echoed Chavez Zbur's sentiments, saying that the California Court's decision was "disconnected from the reality facing transgender people" and that the deliberate misgendering of transgender individuals is "straight up harassment," the Washington Blade reported. The senator argued that it's not just "disrespectful, discourteous, or insulting," it also "erases an individual's fundamental humanity, particularly one as vulnerable as a trans senior in a nursing home."
Transgender policies across California are seeing major pushback from those who believe it is infringing on their basic rights such as safety, free speech and religious liberty. FOX 40 reported in April that a correctional officer in California State Prison Sacramento in Folsom expressed her concern over Senate Bill 132 or the "The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act," which requires the correctional officers to conduct a search on a transgender person "according to the search policy for their gender identity or according to the gender designation of the facility where they are housed, based on the individual's search preference."
The unnamed correctional officer sounded the alarm on the facility's administration, which sent out a memo saying that correctional officers who don't abide by S.B. 132 will be charged with insubordination. She expressed fears of losing her job over the transgender policy, which she said she and other officers were not comfortable with.