Michigan’s state House of Representatives has passed a bill that could make “misgendering” someone a felony punishable by prison time or a $10,000 fine.
The bill, HB 4474, passed through the Democrat-controlled state House in a 59-50 vote and will now head to the state Senate for a vote.
The legislation seeks to amend the Ethnic Intimidation Act in the Michigan penal code to state that “a person is guilty of a hate crime if that person maliciously and intentionally does any of the following to an individual based in whole or in part on an actual or perceived characteristic of that individual,” and goes on to list intimidating another individual as one of the actions.
The legislation also uses “harassment” in its definition of “intimidate” without defining what would rise to that level.
“’Intimidate’ means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable individual to feel terrorized, frightened, or threatened, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, or threatened,” the bill states.
Both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” are listed as classes that will be protected from mean words.
“‘Gender identity or expression’ means having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity or expression whether or not associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth,” the bill says.
Anyone found guilty of violating this update to the law will be “guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years, or by a fine of not more than $10,000.”
Free speech advocates have branded the bill as a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment as it compels speech and denial of biology that was widely accepted until recently.
“If passed, penalties would be based on how the supposed victim and court ‘feel’ about a particular matter,” the Daily Mail noted. “What constitutes as being deemed ‘intimidation and harassment’ would be up to the interpretation of the listener and a local prosecutor.”
Distinguished Professor Emeritus William Wagner, a former federal judge and legal counsel in the U.S. Senate, told the Daily Wire that this policy will be used as a “weapon capable of destroying conservative expression.”
“Make no mistake about it. Those advocating for this legislation will wield these policies as a weapon capable of destroying conservative expression or viewpoints grounded in the sacred,” Wagner told The Daily Wire. “One merely needs to look at the scores of cases brought against schools, churches, businesses, and individuals around our country. Proponents use these laws to silence and financially cripple those who dare to adhere to a different viewpoint and oppose their agenda.”
Wagner explained that if passed, someone could listen to a preacher and be offended and intimidated because their “perceived gender identity” is being attacked. He said that the policy determines what is criminal “after the action,” in stark opposition of the due process required by the Constitution.