Michigan Supreme Court Proposal Would Impose ‘Preferred Pronouns’ in System of Justice
COMMENTARY: This is an attempt to colonize our language, and it must be resisted.
God’s creation has a certain order to it. Part of that order is found in the sexes: “Man and woman, he created them” (Genesis 5:2). Gender ideology, by contrast, promotes disorder at every turn. Pope Francis warns that it is “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” by attempting to “blur the difference and value between men and women.” A perfect example is its relentless assault on language.
Take, for example, a proposed rules change by the Michigan Supreme Court that would impose “preferred pronouns” in its system of justice. The proposal asks parties and attorneys to include “any personal pronouns in the name section of the (document) caption.”
Michigan’s courts under the new rule will then be “required to use those personal pronouns when referring to or identifying the party or attorney, either verbally or in writing.” After the plan was announced last January, the court afforded interested persons “the opportunity to comment on the form or the merits of the proposal or to suggest alternatives.”
Thankfully, the Diocese of Lansing has submitted a thorough and thoughtful comment in opposition that lays out the many pitfalls of this proposed change:
“The Diocese submits this comment to proposed amendment to Rule 1.109 out of concern for Michigan’s judicial system — a system which above all must be rooted in truth — and concern for freedom of religion, conscience, and speech for Catholics, Christians, other religious believers, and all who object to gender ideology.”
Part of what makes implementing such a rule difficult, says the diocese, is the ever-expanding myriad of personal pronouns for an ever-expanding range of “gender identities.” These go beyond “his” and “her” to encompass “pronouns” not found anywhere in the dictionary such as cir, cos, quis, nir, xyr, zir, yos, and heir.
The Michigan Supreme Court says that it is “interested in receiving comments addressing the constitutional implications of this proposal.”
A bit of legal research should suffice. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the intermediate federal appeals court whose decisions are binding in Michigan, has already expressed concerns over the government forcing use of “preferred pronouns.” Two years ago, that court ruled in favor of a longtime college professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, who was disciplined for refusing to refer to a student using pronouns that did not correspond to the student’s biological sex.
Judge Amul Thapar, writing for a unanimous panel, reversed the district court’s dismissal of Nicholas Meriwether’s suit: “A requirement that an employer not fire an employee for expressing a transgender identity is a far cry from what we have here — a requirement that a professor affirmatively change his speech to recognize a person’s transgender identity.”
Two months before the 6th Circuit’s decision, the 5th Circuit reviewed a case involving preferred pronouns and the judiciary. Norman Varner, who was convicted for attempted receipt of child pornography and had previously been convicted in state court for possession, filed motions in court to change the name on his judgment of confinement to “Kathrine Nicole Jett” and to be addressed with female pronouns. Varner’s motions were denied.
The majority opinion was written by Judge Kyle Duncan, the federal judge who was confronted recently by an unruly mob of progressive students at Stanford Law and the school’s “diversity dean.” Duncan’s opinion matter-of-factly noted that while some federal courts “refer to gender-dysphoric parties by their preferred pronouns,” “none has adopted the practice as a matter of binding precedent, and none has purported to obligate litigants or others to follow the practice.”
Duncan also observed that, “increasingly, federal courts today are asked to decide cases that turn on hotly-debated issues of sex and gender identity. In cases like these, a court may have the most benign motives in honoring a party’s request to be addressed with pronouns matching his ‘deeply felt, inherent sense of [his] gender.’ Yet in doing so, the court may unintentionally convey its tacit approval of the litigant’s underlying legal position.” And, finally, as “a dysphoric person’s experienced gender may include alternative gender identities beyond binary stereotypes,” Duncan concluded that it is best not to “enlist the federal judiciary in this quixotic undertaking.”
That seems pretty clear and eminently sensible.
The Michigan Supreme Court should accept the guidance offered by these two appeals courts on the dangers of adopting the proposed rule change. It should also wait for the decision in a case currently under review by the Supreme Court. 303 Creative v. Elis involves a Christian wedding website designer who does not want to create websites for same-sex wedding ceremonies. Although the designer claims that both her rights to religious freedom and free speech are threatened by application of a state antidiscrimination law, the Court has limited its review to the free-speech issue.
The Court will likely affirm long-standing precedent against government-compelled speech.
Make no mistake about it. That is what we are talking about here: a move by public officials to compel the use of words that exist only in the bizarre lexicon of gender ideology. It is as if a religious sect were planning to force courts to use its theological vocabulary simply in order to make its members feel more comfortable. This is an attempt to colonize our language, and it must be resisted.
The comment period ends on May 1. Comments to Proposed Rule MCR 1.109 can be offered here.