The Diocese of Lansing has lodged its formal opposition to a proposal by Michigan Supreme Court that would compel judges to refer to attorneys and litigants by their preferred personal pronouns, even when these conflict with a person’s biological sex.
“While we should certainly sympathize with anyone who is confused about his or her identity or feels uncomfortable regarding his or her biological sex, our courts must be rooted in truth as our judicial system exists to dispense justice which, at the heart of justice, is the pursuit of truth,” said General Counsel for the Diocese of Lansing, Will Bloomfield, March 27.
“Disregarding the truth of biological sex is no kindness and threatens to impose falsehoods upon our judicial system and, thus, undermine the very purpose of its existence: the dispensing of justice, which can only occur in accordance with truth.”
The proposed amendment to Rule 1.109 of the Michigan Court Rules was circulated for consultation by the Michigan Supreme Court in January. The rule change would permit parties and attorneys to include their personal pronouns in court documents and would require courts “to use those personal pronouns when referring to or identifying the party or attorney, either verbally or in writing.”
In a detailed eight-page response to the proposed amendment, the Diocese of Lansing says the rule change, if adopted, would be a direct violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
“In brief, requiring courts, i.e., judges, to use a person’s own designated personal pronouns is an unconstitutional violation of free speech and free exercise of religion. The idea of compelling speech has long been odious to constitutional government in America,” writes Bloomfield in the Diocese of Lansing response.
“And as vital as the interest in free speech is for ordinary citizens, or groups of citizens, it is perhaps even more important for judges to be free of any compulsory speech.”
In total, the Diocese of Lansing submission identifies nine grounds upon which the Supreme Court proposal should be rejected ranging from its inconsistency with the principles of the U.S. Constitution, the Michigan Constitution and existing Michigan law to the practicalities of its implementation.
This includes the potential administrative complexity created by the ever-expanding myriad of personal pronouns coined in response to an ever-expanding range of alleged “gender identifies”. These go beyond his and her to encompass “pronouns” as yet unfound in the dictionary such as “cir”, “cos”, “quis”, “nir”, “xyr”, “zir”, “yos”, and “heir”.
The Diocese of Lansing submission also suggests that the proposed rule change is unnecessary as Michigan’s Rules of Professional Conduct already require lawyers to “treat with courtesy and respect all persons involved in the legal process.”
“This expectation of professional conduct, civility, and courtesy is all that is required,” writes Bloomfield, “There are other ways to treat people courteously that do not require the compulsory use of a person’s preferred pronouns.”
In addition to the Diocese of Lansing’s objections, a dozen Michigan Court of Appeals judges have jointly expressed their own concerns regarding the Supreme Court’s proposed rule. Comments to the Michigan Supreme Court are due May 1. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to impose the new rule sometime thereafter.