Failing to use transgender terms could end in court
Tasmania’s controversial transgender reforms could contain a “compelled speech” provision making it illegal for a person to refuse the use of an individual’s preferred pronoun, according to fresh legal warnings.
Compelled speech was the issue that helped propel clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson to international prominence after he spoke out against the introduction of Canadian laws which he argued would “require people under the threat of legal punishment to employ certain words”.
The Tasmanian reforms have been deferred for consideration by the state’s independent-dominated upper house until March after amendments were made to a government bill by the opposition parties and Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey.
The amendments would make gender optional on birth certificates. They have been attacked by Scott Morrison as “ridiculous” while Bill Shorten has confirmed there are no plans to adopt the measure in the party platform at the ALP national conference
Greg Walsh, a senior lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia and author of Religious Schools and Discrimination Law, yesterday said there were further problems with the Tasmanian bill.
“The Tasmanian parliament’s proposed changes to its anti-dis- crimination legislation could make it illegal for a person to not accept a transgender person’s gender identity, such as by declining to use their preferred personal pronoun,” Dr Walsh said.
“The proposed amendments will add the term ‘gender expression’ into the act, which is defined as including ‘personal references that manifest or express gender or gender identity’.
“These changes will make it more likely that a person who expresses their understanding that gender is determined by our biology will breach the broad vilification provisions in Tasmania that prohibit “conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules on grounds including gender identity’’.
“Although it is admirable that parliamentarians want to ensure those who are transgender are respected, the attempt to use state power to force individuals to use language that contradicts their deeply held beliefs is completely unacceptable.”
Advance Australia, established as a conservative rival to activist group GetUp, also made clear it would target the introduction of compelled speech. The organisation’s national director, Gerard Benedet, said the Tasmanian bill would set a “dangerous precedent” and could result in people being hauled before antidiscrimination tribunals. “It’s a slippery slope. What’s next?” he said. “It is compelled speech.
“If a trans person said to me, ‘I would prefer it if you called me or address me by X’, out of respect, you would do it. But the government has no place telling you that you must say that. The government has no right to tell you how you should think, speak or act.
“My issue is with the compelled nature of it. That people who choose not to refer to the person using their preferred pronoun could end up in an anti-discrimination tribunal or a commission where the government forces them to say something they are not comfortable with.”