A California appeals court has ruled that a California law that prohibited nursing home workers from using anything other than a patient’s preferred pronouns or face legal action, violated the First Amendment.
The State of California Third District Court of Appeals struck down the law, which was signed by former Governor Jerry Brown as part of the LGBTQ Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights in 2017, in a 3-0 decision on Friday.
The court wrote that the law posed a “content-based restriction on speech” as it compels nursing home staffers of using speech they do not support by forcing them to use a person’s preferred pronouns.
“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,” the court ruled, according to The Washington Examiner.
Using a pronoun other than that preferred by a patient “may be disrespectful, discourteous, and insulting,” Associate Justice Elena Duarte wrote in the court’s decision, but that it can also “express an ideological disagreement with another person’s expressed gender identity.”
This, the court determined, is something protected by the First Amendment, no matter how much it may upset people.
“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,” she wrote, NBC News reported.
The decision was decried by the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat representing San Francisco, who said it was “disconnected from the reality facing transgender people.”
“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,” Wiener said, adding that it “erases an individual’s fundamental humanity” to misgender a nursing home patient.
“This misguided decision cannot be allowed to stand,” he declared.
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