Refusing to sell your goods or services to people whose lifestyle violates your religious beliefs is so old hat. New York City has taken a bold new step in the social justice wars. A directive issued by the city’s Commission on Human Rights puts merchants and their employees on notice that fines will be levied against businesses that fail to use a customer’s or client’s preferred gender pronoun in transactions.
If you’re not aware of gender-neutral pronouns, which include such marvelous and necessary inventions as ze, sie, e, ou, and ve, you can get a crash course on them here.
It is up to every business to learn a customer’s pronoun preferences, which reflect his (make that “xir”) gender, and use those pronouns during the course of an exchange. A sample conversation might go something like this.
Employee or owner: Hello. Might I inquire which gender you self-identify as?
Customer: Yes. I am intersex (or gender non-conforming or genderqueer or questioning or some other label).
Employee or owner: Very well. How may I help ze?
The law is also intended to cover employees. According to the mandate, “refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment.”
The penalty for violations doesn’t come cheaply either:
The Commission can impose civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.
If this all sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. In an article in the Washington Post, UCLA Law Prof. Eugene Volokh writes:
So people can basically force us — on pain of massive legal liability — to say what they want us to say, whether or not we want to endorse the political message associated with that term, and whether or not we think it’s a lie.