There was a time when I thought no rule of grammar could possibly inspire more ardent debate than the Oxford comma. But California once again proves me wrong.
State representatives elected by the special, especially tan snowflakes of the Golden State have just passed the nation’s first state laws governing pronoun usage.
SB 219, which passed the State Assembly on September 12 and has already passed the Senate, proposes to fine or jail employees of long-term or intermediate care facilities who repeatedly and willfully refuse to use a preferred gender pronoun:
This bill would enact the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term-Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights. Among other things, the bill would make it unlawful, except as specified, for any long-term care facility to take specified 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, including, among others, willfully and repeatedly failing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns. [Emphasis added.]
There Are No Religious Exemptions In SB 219
Although this technically wouldn’t criminalize using the wrong pronoun, violating this item in the patient’s “bill of rights” for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly would carry a fine of up to $1000 or a year in jail. As Amy Swearer noted in the Daily Signal, in true California style, SB 219 carries no religious exemptions—not for nursing homes run by religious institutions, nor even individual doctors. The only exception it makes is for “professionally reasonable clinical judgment.”
Additionally, facility staff may not “Prohibit a resident from using, or harass a resident who seeks to use or does use, a restroom available to other persons of the same gender identity, regardless of whether the resident is making a gender transition or appears to be gender-nonconforming. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, requiring a resident to show identity documents in order to gain entrance to a restroom available to other persons of the same gender identity [emphasis added].”
In other words, a provider concerned about protecting vulnerable residents could be fined for stopping a man, who may very well fit “stereotypical expectations of how a man… should appear or act” from entering the women’s restroom. The bill also would make it unlawful to refuse to move a person who identifies as a woman into a room with other women, or vice versa.
California Likes Subjective, Confusing Regulations
The bill also would make it unlawful for care providers in such care facilities to “deny or restrict medical or nonmedical care” pertaining to the particular needs of transgender residents, or provide care “in a manner that, to a similarly situated reasonable person, unduly demeans the resident’s dignity” [emphasis added].
You might wondering how busy clinical staff are going to deal with such a subjective, emotionally oriented requirement. In normal, non-transgender related clinical circumstances (particularly outside California) this rule may have been clear, but what constitutes an “unduly demeaning” manner in this context? What is a “reasonable person” to a government that would censor and compel people to deny basic biological realities? The LGBTQ+ agenda and other rules included in the bill obfuscate rather than clarify—or at the very least beg an extremely broad, politically correct interpretation.
But as someone who has read quite a few pages of California code, I can say this law is quite typical of California statutes. Really, unless you have a lawyer on speed dial, you’re on your own when it comes to determining how you’re going to abide by California’s many, many burdensomely vague and subjective regulations. You organize yet another training session. Then you print out the poster (the “bill of rights” needs to be readily visible to all the residents, you know), add it to the wallpaper composed of about a dozen other posters required by state and federal law, push off that small, helpless feeling you used to get when you were given an overwhelming and complicated homework assignment in high school, and move on with your usual duties… until the California decides to drop you another little regulatory present, and then you repeat the process. Woe unto the HR departments at intermediate and long-term care facilities.
For Progressives, Forced Speech Reigns Supreme
But at least this only applies to a specific type of facility, right? It’s not like everyone in the state will be required to use preferred pronouns? Yes, the bill would only apply to skilled nursing, long-term and intermediate care facilities right now, but you know that’s how progressives prop the door open to a more radical agenda down the road. (Don’t believe me? Read this article on how gay marriage has triggered an avalanche of totalitarianism in the UK). SB 219 passed the Assembly and will be ratified by the governor not because every elected representative is a diehard totalitarian but because, really, how many transgender people are in those facilities anyway?
Leftist activists in California, and particularly its major cities, have been perversely interested in obscuring and stifling reality across the economic and social spectrum of issues: from minimum wage laws to transgender bathroom laws, radical abortion laws (insurance companies are mandated to cover abortion in the Golden State), or how the marriage protection amendment in ‘08 was vociferously attacked legally and personally. A proposed law that would create a new “right” to censor private employees in the name of protecting their “inner sense of being male or female” (as phrased in the proposed law) is par for the course. For many progressives, especially of the sexual variety, reality is not a value. Acceptance and affirmation are their values. Personal truth is the rule of the day.
Like the rest of the country, the government of California values protecting workers and patients. But the reigning philosophy for its regulatory schemes of the past decade or so isn’t preventing actual harm from coming to the people of their state, as in the case of informed consent or stiff penalties for elder abuse. Such protections do not go far enough. Feelings, particularly the feelings of one’s “inner self,” must be protected.
Our Culture Is Embracing ‘Sola Feels’
I’ve written about sola feels on other occasions, from abortion to “embryo jewelry” to the LGBTQ+ sexual revolution. The sacralization of emotion is inextricably bound up with denying reality, and it is quickly moving from the orthodoxy of the far left to the orthopraxy of all Democratic governments. It demands conformity and obedience to the narrative; a thousand knees bow for pronouns today, ten thousand more for baking cakes and arranging flowers tomorrow—all in the name of “dignity” and “equality.”
Observers shouldn’t be shocked at this bill. California is merely adapting to the orthodoxy of the left a little faster than the rest of the country. Here, as with the case of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington and the mandate for abortion coverage in Oregon, we witness the rise of coercive rights. These aren’t the rights endowed by our Creator, since we have no Creator in this fiction we’ve contrived for ourselves. These are the rights we grant ourselves, that only exist in the context of another individual being forced to do something for us. In this case, it is forcing someone to either use pronouns that do not correspond to their intrinsic organic identity as male or female, or contrive their communication so as to refrain from using pronouns at all.
Legal eagles may debate whether this rule constitutes “compelled speech,” but that shouldn’t be the hang up. This rule is plainly censorship, and it falls in line with other coercive rights in that it attempts to force conformity with sola feels. It is an attack not just on freedom of speech, but on freedom of conscience and reality itself—and that is something every American should be zealous to protect.