Are Government-Enforced Pronouns Coming Soon?

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: The debate over transgender pronouns is not just a culture war anymore. It is increasingly at the center of legal battles, and it remains to be seen which side the courts will ultimately side with.

  • Context: Courts have reliably sided with religious liberty and free speech claims over the past few decades.

Virginia: A high school French teacher was fired after avoiding using any pronouns when referring to a trans-identifying student — to avoid using the student's preferred pronouns. In response, he sued the principal, assistant principal, school board, and superintendent.

  • The outcome: The Virginia Supreme Court found the case presents “legally viable claims that he was fired in violation” of the state constitution, which prevents compelled speech.

Florida: Three teachers sued the state for its law barring school employees from telling students to call the employees by pronouns that are different from their biological sex. One of those teachers was allegedly fired for using the gender-neutral “Mx” instead of “Ms,” “Mrs,” or “Mr.”

Pronoun precedent: Last year, a U.S. appeals court upheld an Indiana school district’s decision to fire a teacher for failing to use a student’s preferred pronouns, the first ruling of its kind in American history.

Why it matters: If preferred pronouns are mandated and sharing pronouns is a norm, then progressive ideas about gender identity are implicitly accepted as true in every interaction. If preferred pronouns are outlawed, those ideas are implicitly rejected in every interaction. The stakes, therefore, will remain high as long as such mandates on both sides are being enacted.