Multnomah County Oregon announced todaythat a Klingon translator would not be required after all. They termed the request an “overzealous attempt” to ensure that they could respond to all patients. They are, however, still searching for translators for over 50 additional tongues.
Given that Clinton Executive Order 13166 regulations effectively require all recipients of federal funds to provide translations into any language, be it written, unwritten or invented, Multnomah County’s original view — that Klingon translation is required under E.O. 13166 — was on sound legal ground.
A person who understands English still has the right to demand a translator if he also speaks Klingon or any other tongue. The interesting question is whether a person has to actually speak another language in order to demand to be served in that language under E.O. 13166. Barnaby Zall, an attorney who has pled official English cases before the Supreme Court, explained the hospital’s dilemma to me:
Legally, the answer is “yes” because E.O. 13166 equates language with national origin and national origin is not a choice. As a practical matter, the answer may well be “no.” The Oregon hospital is required to hold up “I speak” cards to enable clients to indicate their language preference. The person points to “Klingon.” Do you have to investigate further or just accept it?
Given that any delay in providing services is also considered a violation of E.O. 13166 and thus can trigger the loss by the entire institution of all federal funds, providers are not likely to risk arguing with people.
Congressman Peter King (R-New York) has introduced legislation to eliminate E.O. 13166. May his bill “live long and prosper.”