Politics & Policy

California Threatens Jail Time for Dissenters from the New Transgender Dogma

(Photo: Stepan Popov/Dreamstime)
A law moving its way through the state’s legislature would effectively criminalize the ‘misgendering’ of certain trans citizens.

California may see itself as a leader on criminal-justice reform, but it is on its way to creating a whole new class of criminals: citizens who use “him” to refer to a man and “her” for a woman.

The “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights” has already been passed by California’s state senate and unanimously recommended by its state assembly’s judiciary committee. It would impose left-wing dogma by force of law if it gets much further.

For now it is limited to nursing homes and intermediate-care facilities, but there is no reason for it to stop there. According to First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh, it is “pretty unlikely that, if this law is enacted, such prohibitions would be limited just to this [nursing home] scenario.” The focus on nursing homes, one suspects, was chosen not because there is an epidemic of elderly transgender people being “misgendered” by their caretakers, but simply because the elderly make for a particularly sympathetic test case.

However, our sympathy should also extend to the caretakers. If one of their residents wants to be called “ze” and “zir” — or really anything else, according to the law — they had better think twice before refusing. While New York City threatens all employers and landlords with large fines for refusing to use an individual’s preferred pronouns, California’s politicians are going further — they want jail time for dissenters.

If the law passes, misgendering a transgender nursing-home resident could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison. It also requires nursing homes to allow residents to enter the bathrooms and showers of their chosen gender. Grandma, it seems, will not be allowed the common courtesy of a women-only bathroom. California will no longer tolerate her “discrimination,” if the Left gets its way.

The bill was written by state senator Scott Wiener, who has made his intentions clear: He wants to put the religious in their place. “Everyone is entitled to their religious view,” he has said. “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 essentially the French view, known as laïcité. Wiener will let you be a Jew or Christian in your own home, but as soon as you step out, you “enter in the public space” — and there, he believes, there can be no Jews or Christians, only loyal servants of the state. The Law may flourish in private, but in public it must bow before the law.

Those ‘fear-mongering’ social conservatives who ‘cried wolf’ have been vindicated.

This misunderstands religion, or more precisely, it redefines religion. The Christian faith, after all, is not merely one part of a man’s life. It cannot be compartmentalized and set aside from nine to five, or in public locations, as secularists wish. Nor does the “free exercise of religion” in the Bill of Rights recognize a right to pray on Sundays; rather, it protects the right to practice a faith that is central to every part of life.

America has long understood this. We have always believed that Americans should not have to leave their Christianity or Judaism at the doors of their homes, and that, by bringing their faiths into the public square, they enrich it for us all.

“It is now no more,” wrote George Washington in 1790 to the Jews of Newport, R.I., “that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” No, not in America, thought Washington. The U.S. had been and would continue to be a haven for oppressed religious minorities of all stripes. “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to Mankind . . . a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.”

This was the spirit and meaning of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, contrary to popular left-wing perception, does not contain an “unless it offends transgender citizens” exception. Secular or religious, Americans have the moral and likely the legal right to disagree with the California bill, which defines “gender identity” as being “without regard to whether the self-identified gender accords with the individual’s physical appearance, surgical history, genitalia, legal sex, sex assigned at birth, or name and sex as it appears in medical records.”

Not even ten years ago, a bill like California’s would have been impossible. Moreover, anyone who feared a bill like it would have been mocked and dismissed as hysterical. But those “fear-mongering” social conservatives who “cried wolf” have been vindicated.

In the 21st century, America has shown an extraordinary ability to change on a dime, create a new normal, establish a new moral order, and then forget that it was not always thus. Democrats who are now getting pitchforks out for the “transphobes” and “bigots” were, only a few years ago, retrogrades just like us. It is with the zeal of converts that they now stand ready to condemn those who haven’t seen the same light, bludgeoning ideological dissent with the threat of jail time.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” said Ronald Reagan. It seems he was being conservative.


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