A newly signed law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown last week states that health care workers who choose not to address transgender patients by their preferred pronouns could face fines or jail time.
The bill, which was signed into law Wednesday, is designed to protect transgender and LGBT individuals in hospitals, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, and retirement homes from discrimination and ensure their needs are met, such as letting them use the bathroom of their preferred gender.
“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 reads.
The law states that health care workers who “willfully and repeatedly” fail to address transgender people by their “preferred name or pronouns” if they were “clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns” would be in violation of the law.
According to the newly-signed law, violators could be punished with a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars,” sent to prison “in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill to the California Senate in August, argued 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.
Wiener’s office claimed that the law “does not create any new criminal provisions,” but instead creates “new rights within an existing structure.”
Those who opposed the law, including Greg Burt of the California Family Council, criticized the measure when it was in its early stages for being 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.