Some people might think the looniest thing California did in recent weeks was declare its status as a sanctuary state: a place where state and local law enforcement are barred from cooperating with ICE to remove dangerous illegal migrants.
That may be the most incendiary thing California has done. In fact, ICE has already pointed out that its operating profile in California will have to be higher and more intrusive because local law enforcement won’t be cooperating at the nexus points that allow ICE to remain in the background; e.g., local jails and courts. Once the new California law goes into effect, on 1 January, ICE will have to turn to more neighborhood patrols, and will naturally encounter – and detain – more harmless, non-dangerous illegals than it does today.
But, incendiary as this move is, it’s not quite as bat-poo loony as another pair of outcomes from this year’s session of the state legislature.
One of those is a law reducing the crime of knowingly infecting another person with HIV – but not telling them – from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Social media have been buzzing with this one all weekend. Nobody has a bloodthirsty desire to slap people with HIV around. But it is a deadly disease, with extremely difficult and painful consequences for sufferers, and many commentators see it as inexplicable to not keep in place a more powerful deterrent to spreading it through intentional actions.
Although much progress has been made in treating and alleviating the symptoms of HIV, we are nowhere near being able to regard it as a mere routine hazard, for either medical and emergency workers or the social lives of the general public. Rolling back special precautions for a disease that remains uniquely disruptive and deadly doesn’t look like a good idea. It looks dangerous and irresponsible.
Meanwhile, however, California has decided to clamp down vigorously on something that no one in his right mind thinks should be punishable with incarceration. The state has made it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail for a person to use the wrong gender pronoun in addressing a nursing-home resident.
This looks awful darn particular, of course. So much so that the new law seems, well, crazy. Nursing home residents? WTF? Writing at National Review in August, Elliot Kaufman cites legal analyst Eugene Volokh, who considers it “pretty unlikely” that the law’s intent is limited to protecting nursing-home residents from “misgendering.”
The focus on nursing homes, one suspects, was chosen not because there is an epidemic of elderly transgender people being “misgendered” by their caretakers, but simply because the elderly make for a particularly sympathetic test case.
I would add that the elderly make for a relatively defenseless and easily exploitable test case too. A nursing home is a good place to find dementia, with symptoms that make ground truth about a case hard to establish. Many nursing-home residents have attentive family members who would defend them from being exploited in misgendering lawsuits – but many don’t.
One can’t help assuming that the framework of a lawsuit was being put together by activists before this bill was even introduced in the legislature.
Government in California has become a parody of itself. The most recent move came on Friday, when the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed suit within hours against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for granting the waiver of the Obamacare “contraception mandate” – long sought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, among others – on religious or other conscience-based grounds.
Legal precedent makes it clear the Trump administration has the authority to issue this waiver. The California challenge is basically just a nuisance, in terms of its long-term import for legal understanding of the underlying law. But the suit will be used in the interim to continue the state’s practice of forcing religious institutions to cover abortion and contraception in their health plans, even when those services violate their beliefs.
Remember, California is a state with at least $1.3 trillion in debt, more than $830 billion of that owed in pensions, which continue from year to year to be chronically underfunded. From poorly performing schools to crime, crumbling state infrastructure, business flight from the burdensome regulatory environment, and the loss of the middle class, the Golden State has big problems. The legislative record of 2017 helps make clear what the biggest problem of all is.