Tuesday, July 20, 2021

California Law Barring Misgendering Of Long Term Care Residents Violates 1st Amendment

In Taking Offense v. State of California, (CA App., July 16, 2021), a California state appellate court held that a provision in California's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights violates free speech rights.  At issue is a provision that prohibits staff members of long-term care facilities from willfully and repeatedly referring to a resident by anything except the person's preferred name or pronoun. The court said in part:

[W]e conclude the pronoun provision ... is overinclusive in that it restricts more speech than is necessary to achieve the government’s compelling interest in eliminating discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of sex.... [T]he law criminalizes even occasional, isolated, off-hand instances of willful misgendering-- provided there has been at least one prior instance--without requiring that such occasional instances of misgendering amount to harassing or discriminatory conduct.

The court however rejected an equal protection challenge to a different provision of the law that requires room assignments in long term care facilities to be made on the basis of a resident's gender identity, unless a transgender resident requests otherwise.

Judge Hull filed a concurring opinion discussing the right of intimate association. Judge Robie also filed a concurring opinion.