Commentary

Six-Figure Fines for Gender Pronouns?

L. Brent Bozell III Tim Graham
By L. Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham | May 20, 2016 | 11:36 AM EDT

The left used to congratulate itself on being the "Free Speech Movement." It used to celebrate the rebellious anarchists who used obscene words and forced sexually graphic images and conversations into the public sphere. Conservatives were the ones who insisted on decency in the public discourse and demanded regulation, both within the private sector and from the federal government, to protect the public from that obscenity.

But now, as the world turns upside down on sexuality and gender, leftists are becoming the ones who censor and fine. Instead of a Hays Code for decency, there's a Gays Code. Breaking the new language rules of the LGBT lobby can be very dear. Literally.

Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh revealed that the New York City Commission on Human Rights has issued guidance that employers, landlords, professionals and businesses can now be fined up to $250,000 for not using an individual's preferred name, pronoun or title, under the New York City Human Rights Law, "regardless of the individual's sex assigned at birth, anatomy, gender, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on the individual's identification."

Their legal "guidance" insists: "Most individuals and many transgender people use female or male pronouns and titles. Some transgender and gender non-conforming people prefer to use pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers, such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir." So, if you willfully and/or maliciously refuse to call a person "they" as preferred, you can be fined.

This mandated speech code not only reflects a rejection of biology, and not only endorses leftist cultural politics, but it is also a form of fascism never before seen in this country. You must use "ze" — an utterly made-up word — to refer to a person one day, and then you are required to use a different pronoun for the same person tomorrow — or whenever that person decides on a new term. So far, the pronouns include not just "ze," but "xe," "ve," "(f)ae" and "per," and more. Some even insisted on "Mx." instead of "Mr." or "Ms."

Let's call this code what is: transgender privilege.

"We can't be required to even display a license plate that says 'Live Free or Die' on our car, if we object to the message; that's what the court held in Wooley v. Maynard (1978)," Volokh argued. "But New York is requiring people to actually say words that convey a message of approval of the view that gender is a matter of self-perception rather than anatomy."

What's more, Volokh warned, the Big Apple grammar police have declared that "refusal to use a transgender employee's preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment." The label "harassment" in this case is important, Volokh notes, "because harassment law requires employers and businesses to prevent harassment by co-workers and patrons , not just by themselves or their own employees."

This punishment is not an empty threat. In 2012, Mirella Salemi, a Manhattan-based lesbian chef at a Mexican eatery, was awarded $1.6 million in damages by a New York county judge, because her employer, Edward Globokar, "threatened her soul" and held employee prayer meetings in the hopes of curing her of her sexuality. The fines were upheld in 2014.

President Obama's overweening imposition of a transgender-bathroom policy for all of the nation's schools makes it clear that the federal government will likely follow in New York City's footsteps. The Obama administration has already taken the view that existing federal sex-discrimination laws automatically apply to "gender identity." The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission views it as illegal under federal law to persistently call employees by the "wrong" (biologically correct) pronoun.

Male is female, and female is male. George Orwell's "1984" is here.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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