California signed a new law last week that could have health care workers ending up in jail if they choose not to address transgender patients by their preferred pronouns.
Senate Bill 219 was signed into law Oct. 4 states that it is unlawful to “willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.” The crime is defined as a misdemeanor.
The bill is designed to protect transgender and LGBT individuals in hospitals, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities and retirement homes from discrimination.
The bill also includes language about allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their preferred gender. It also stipulates that when rooms are assigned by gender, transgender patients would be assigned a room based on their preferred identity.
The law would make it illegal for someone to ask for identification if a transgender person wants to use a bathroom not consistent with their biological gender.
People who violate the law could face a fine not to exceed $1,000 or be sent to the county jail for not longer than one year, according to Breitbart News.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill to the California Senate in August, said that people would not be criminally prosecuted despite the law’s wording.
“It’s just more scare tactics by people who oppose all LGBT civil rights and protections,” he said in a statement last month, according to Breitbart News.
Wiener’s office claimed that the law does not add new criminal provisions but instead creates “new rights within an existing structure.”
Greg Burt of the California Family Council said the bill was a violation of free speech.
“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?” Burt told the California Assembly Judiciary Committee in August, according to CBN News.