California health care
workers who “willfully and repeatedly” decline to use a senior
transgender patient's “preferred name or pronouns” could face
punishments ranging from a fine to jail time under a newly signed law.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation last week.
The sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, has argued adamantly
that nobody is going to be criminally prosecuted for using the wrong
“It’s just more scare tactics by people who oppose all LGBT civil rights
and protections,” he said in a statement last month.
But the language seemingly allows for the possibility, however remote.
The bill itself is aimed at protecting transgender and other LGBT
individuals in hospitals, retirement homes and assisted living
facilities. The bill would ensure those facilities accommodate
transgender people and their needs, including letting them decide which
gender-specific 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
California legislator calling for jail time for caregivers refusing to
us preferred names of transgender residents Video
Bill proposes punishment for not using preferred pronouns
Among the unlawful actions are “willfully and repeatedly” failing to use
a transgender person’s “preferred name or pronouns” after he or she is
“clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.”
The law states that if provisions are violated, the violator could be
punished 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
Wiener's office noted that violations for residential care facilities
under existing law rarely resulted in criminal charges, especially for
minor violations. Criminal penalties are meant for more for violations
that expose a patients to risk of death or serious harm, his office
Wiener’s office noted that the law “does not create any new criminal
provisions,” but rather creates “new rights within an existing
One opponent of the law, the California Family Council's Greg Burt,
slammed the measure when the bill was still in its early stages.
“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel
people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?” he said to the
California Assembly Judiciary Committee in August, according to CBN