LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Michigan Supreme Court is considering a rules change to force Michigan courts to refer to attorneys and litigants by their preferred pronouns.
The rule change released by the Michigan Supreme Court reveals that it would allow parties and attorneys to include “any personal pronouns in the name section of the (document) caption, and courts are required to use those personal pronouns when referring to or identifying the party or attorney, either verbally or in writing.”
This proposed amendment was sent out by the high court on January 18th and said that before determining if it would be adopted or rejected, they were sending the notice to give interested persons “the opportunity to comment on the form or the merits of the proposal or to suggest alternatives.” They are receiving comments through May 1st. So far, they have received 160 comments.
The proposed rule also says that they are also interested in receiving comments addressing the constitutional implications of this proposal.
That’s where the problem comes in. Some are saying that the rule itself is unconstitutional. Others are asking questions about the proposed change and how the court will “police” the new rule. What are the pronouns that the court will accept and how can they be changed – and how often?
The Anti-Defamation League, which calls themselves the “leading anti-hate organization in the world” lists 15 gender pronouns. LGBTQ Nation has a long list of pronouns but admits on their own website that it’s “incomplete” i.e. ever-changing.
And with courts supposedly dealing in facts, how is the factual witness testimony concerning a defendant accused of rape or murder and identified as being a “man” going to hold up in court if the defendant wants to be referred to as a “woman”? And what’s to stop a defendant from changing their preferred pronoun to the plaintiff’s last name to cause complete confusion in the courtroom?
Wouldn’t a pronoun change be used for every defendant accused of a crime so that they can go to court and use this new rule to challenge the evidence against them? Additionally, the court’s order has no requirement of proof that the person requesting the gender pronoun change actually lives as the opposite sex or the pronoun description chosen.
The constitutionality of the rule is also at question.
The Daily Wire reports that William R. Bloomfield, general counsel for the Diocese of Lansing, said that the rule would be a direct violation of the First Amendment. In his eight-page response to the proposed rule, Bloomfield says, “In brief, requiring courts, i.e., judges, to use a person’s own designated personal pronouns is an unconstitutional violation of free speech and free exercise of religion.” He added, “And as vital as the interest in free speech is for ordinary citizens, or groups of citizens, it is perhaps even more important for judges to be free of any compulsory speech.”
Timothy Denney, a Michigan religious liberty attorney, also told The Daily Wire, “This proposed preferred pronoun rule would violate the compelled speech principle.”
He said, “The Michigan Supreme Court’s proposed rule to force judges to use attorney’s preferred pronouns violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment prohibits government from compelling public officials to make statements contrary to their beliefs.”
He points to Meriweather v. Hartop, a case where the Sixth Circuit ruled that a public college could not force a professor to use the preferred pronouns of a trans-identifying student. The decision from that court is binding in Michigan.
Others oppose the rule as well. Twelve Michigan Court of Appeals judges have signed a letter opposing the rule and have pointed out potential legal problem including those who would use the rule for “strategic reasons” unrelated to the merits of the case and ask whether or not a judgment could be reversed for the offense of using the wrong pronoun in court.
They also reiterate the fact that the pronouns to be requested are not limited by the court’s rule change. They discuss the ambiguous scope of the proposed amendment in their letter by saying, “Unlike the options offered by the federal and state governments, the proposed amendment published by the Supreme Court is not limited under its plain language to pronouns that align with the gender markers of “M”, “F”, or “X”, nor does the proposed amendment identify a concrete class of permissible pronouns from which a person can select.”
The judges point out that it’s unclear if the person can select a tradition pronoun like “he,” “she” or “they” or what some call a pronoun linked to a “three-dimensional galaxy” of gender – to include an expanding list of pronouns that can refer to animals, fantasy chargers or common slang such as “kitten,” “vamp” or “princess.”
The proposed rule also doesn’t preclude a person from creating their own set of unique pronouns – which could lead to them being called (without merit) a doctor, attorney or judge.