In California, health care workers who “willfully and repeatedly” decline to use a senior transgender patient’s “preferred name or pronouns” may face punishment. Sponsors insist that won’t happen; however, the language in a new legislation seems to allow for punishment ranging from a fine to jail time.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the legislation last week.
The bill is aimed at protecting transgender and other LGBT individuals in hospitals, retirement homes and assisted living facilities. Those facilities would be forced to accommodate transgender people and their needs, including letting them decide which bathroom they prefer to use.
“It shall be unlawful for a long-term care facility or facility staff to take any of the following actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status,” the bill reads.
Those actions include:
- Refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun.
- Denying admission to a long-term care facility.
- Transferring a resident within a facility or refusing to transfer to another facility.
- Evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident from a facility.
Facilities are also required to post a specified notice regarding discrimination, alongside its current nondiscrimination policy, in all places, and on all materials. Violations of these provisions fall under the Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act of 1973, the California Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly Act, and other provisions for licensure and regulation of health facilities.
Violations include the “imposition of civil penalties or the authority to bring a civil action for violation thereof,” according to the legislation.
Its sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, says nobody is actually going to be criminally prosecuted for using the wrong pronoun.
“It’s just more scare tactics by people who oppose all LGBT civil rights and protections,” he said in a statement last month.
However, a violation, which occurs after a refusal to use a person’s “preferred name or pronouns,” after being “clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns,” could be punishable by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both.
Wiener says that currently, those who violate residential care facilities laws are rarely charged criminally, especially for minor violations. Criminal penalties are reserved for violations which expose a patient to death or serious harm, his office said.
They also noted that the law “does not create any new criminal provisions,” but rather creates “new rights within an existing structure.”
California Family Council’s Greg Burt, who stood in opposition to the measure in the law, said, “How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?”
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