The Pronoun Throw Down
January 17, 2020
"Refreshingly sane." It's not everyday those two words are used to describe the circuit courts. But, then again, it's not every day -- at least anymore -- that those circuit courts are packed with liberal activists. Thanks to the White House, one in every four circuit judges is now a Donald Trump appointee, who respects the boundaries of the constitution. And after seeing the kind of transgender pronoun insanity being debated in Kyle Duncan's court, conservatives couldn't be more grateful.
His name is Norman Varner -- but he'd rather everyone call him Katherine Jett. "I am a woman," he insisted, "and not referring to me as such leads me to feel that I am being discriminated against based on my gender identity. I am a woman," he repeated. "Can I not be referred to as one?" Norman, who's been convicted on child pornography charges, wants to have his 2012 records changed to match his preferred name. That question was essentially thrown out on a technicality. But the real debate -- his insistence that the court use female pronouns -- has captured the public's attention.
And why not? It's playing out in schools, places of business, even sports. Teachers like Peter Vlaming have been fired for refusing to use a biologically incorrect pronoun. It's no wonder Varner's "Motion to Use Female Pronouns When Addressing Appellant" has taken center stage.
"Congress," Kyle Duncan wrote in the 2-1 decision against Varner, "has said nothing to prohibit courts from referring to litigants according to their biological sex [instead of their] subjective gender identity." If anything, he points out, the "convention" is and continues to be a "courtesy."
Secondly, he went on, if a court were forced to use the preferred pronouns of litigants, "it could raise delicate questions about judicial impartiality..." After all, he points out, this subject -- sex and gender identity -- is increasingly being raised before the courts. "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."
Last, but certainly not least, Duncan explained, indulging these gender fantasies "may well turn out to be more complex than [they] appear." There are literally dozens of pronouns that judges would have to learn -- one university's guide, he noted, has more than 45 possibilities. "When local governments have sought to enforce pronoun usage, they have had to make refined distinctions based on matters such as the types of allowable pronouns and the intent of the 'misgendering' offender. Courts would have to do the same. We decline to enlist the federal judiciary in this quixotic undertaking."
Hats off to Kyle Duncan for refusing to play along with this dangerous game. "This is an attack on basic language ... Human biology and reproduction are binary, and grammar follows that basic truth," PJ Media's Tyler O'Neil argues. "In an era of confusion, this ruling is a welcome moment of sanity." One that wouldn't be possible without the president and Senate's commitment to the courts. It's just another example of how Trump's judges, all 187 of them, are taking back the bench for common sense.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.