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North Bay nursing homes to continue asking LGBTQ residents what pronouns they prefer

California nursing home representatives said their staffs will continue to be trained to refer to clients with their preferred pronouns — despite a recent appellate court ruling allowing for whatever pronouns the employees decide to use.

On July 16, the state Court of Appeals in the 3rd District backed a challenge of a portion of the LGBTQ Long-term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights passed by the Legislature in 2017. The so-called “pronoun provision” was intended to prohibit workers from willfully “misgendering” their residents.

Still, Deborah Pacyna, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, told the Business Journal on July 27 the group supports a “robust set of resident rights.” The list of rights includes freedom from discrimination, abuse, neglect, disrespect, restraints and improper medical care.

“When an individual is admitted to a skilled nursing home, they are asked how they want to be addressed and that information lives in their care plan, which is reviewed quarterly or more often if needed,” Pacyna said. “We don’t expect any changes in that procedure. In addition, nursing home workers must undergo LGBTQ training. The requirement began in 2018, and workers need to take the course every other year.”

Arwin Bulau, director of North Bay Post Acute in Petaluma, said, “It’s not an issue — not here. We treat all the residents the same way — with respect.”

Most agreed it’s just common courtesy to label people as they want to be referred to.

“This plays into the whole culture war the right wing has had on transgender people,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, told the Business Journal. Wiener, who wrote the law, plans to ask the Attorney General’s Office to evaluate the Sacramento court’s decision.

“We fundamentally disagree with the courts. This is not just about making a mistake. It’s harassment and dehumanizing them,” he said. “Unfortunately, the courts bought into the narrative people have that it’s their First Amendment right to harass LGBTQ people.”

Wiener affirmed that the ruling could set a precedent in other workplaces, adding that was one of the fears harbored by the ruling.

The legal challenge brought forth by the party “Taking Offense” on behalf of the Llewellyn Law Office in Sacramento against the state uses a free speech argument that Associate Justice Elena J. Duarte agreed with in her decision.

“The petition alleged that subdivision, the pronoun provision, is unconstitutional, vague and overbroad; in violation of due process of the law; violates equal protection of laws and violates First Amendment rights of freedom of expression, thought, religion, conscience and association,” the complaint targeting Senate Bill 219 reads.

Violation of the law resulted in misdemeanor punishment of a fine up to $2,500 and 180 days in prison.

Equality California, an advocacy nonprofit group promoting LGBTQ rights, indicated the battle is not over. It declared that misgendering is a form of hate speech and called the court decision “beyond disappointing.” It vowed to fight the ruling.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, biotech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 25 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, now a part of the Union Tribune in San Diego County, along with the Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. She graduated from Fullerton College. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com

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