A New GOP Bill Could Fine You $1,500 For Not Misgendering Trans People

This would mean that schools and teachers could be fined for using correct pronouns for their trans colleagues or students.
Republican state Sen. David Clemens introduced a bill that would fine people $1,500 if they refer to trans people using their correct pronouns. (Facebook)
Republican state Sen. David Clemens introduced a bill that would fine people $1,500 if they refer to trans people using their correct pronouns. (Facebook) 

A Republican lawmaker in North Dakota introduced a bill that would fine people $1,500 if they refer to trans people using their correct pronouns, rather than the pronouns they were assigned at birth.

The rule would apply to organizations that receive state funding—which includes public schools. That means schools and teachers could be fined for using their trans colleagues’ or students’ pronouns. 

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‘Words used to reference an individual's sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression, mean the individual's determined sex at birth, male or female,” states Senate Bill 2199. “Any person that violates this section must be assessed a fee of one thousand five hundred dollars.”

Republican state Sen. David Clemens introduced the bill, which has received basically zero support, according to local news station KFYR. In fact, the state’s senate judiciary committee recommended the bill shouldn’t pass, in part because it was poorly written and would be difficult to enforce. Still, the bill will move to the senate floor, and is a sign of just how emboldened many conservative lawmakers are getting in their crusades against trans and nonbinary people. In 2023, state governments have already tried to introduce some of the most draconian anti-trans bills yet, including an Oklahoma bill that would ban gender-affirming care for people under 26. 

North Dakota is already the site of many proposed anti-trans bills, including bans on gender-affirming care and trans sports participation. SB 2199 is the latest example in a string of related proposed policies.

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According to the bill, when a person’s gender identity is contested, the person’s deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, would be used to establish the sex and gender. As LGBTQ Nation reported, this could be referring to chromosomes, which are made up of DNA and proteins.

“We do not have ‘he’ and ‘she’ encoded into our DNA, and human biological sex is not binary. One would wonder how a bill like this would treat intersex people with nonstandard DNA profiles,” said transgender activist and researcher Erin Reed in her newsletter. “Would people be forced to submit to mandatory DNA tests in order to determine what pronouns we should use for them? The implications of this bill are absurd.”

SB 2199 “does not publicly outlaw an individual’s personal expression, but it does outlaw the use of public funds to promote or support anything that is contrary to a person’s biological sex at birth,”  said Clemens while testifying to the judiciary committee in support of his new bill.

“Say they’re a boy, but they come to school and say they’re a girl. As far as that school is concerned in this bill, that person is still a boy,” added Clemens.  “If it becomes contested, the burden will be on the girl, the so-called girl, or the boy, to prove that he is a girl.”

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Clemens reportedly struggled to explain how his bill would be enforced, and when it would apply in the first place.

The Republican-led committee unanimously voted for a “do not pass” recommendation, and said it was poorly written and unenforceable. More than 90 people showed up to testify against the bill on Wednesday, local news reported. No one testified in favor. 

“Respectfully, I see no way this law would pass any sort of legal challenge based on basic legal construction principles. It’s vague, fails to advance any legitimate state interests, and not only would cause impermissible, gender-based discrimination, its very purpose is gender-based discrimination,” Christina Sambor, a staffer representing the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, told the committee. 

Following the committee meeting, Christina Feldmann, a local resident and mother of a trans woman who died by suicide in 2021, confronted Clemens, the Bismark Tribune reported. 

“If she were to have gone to a school that referred to her as he/him, we would have lost her much sooner,” Feldmann reportedly told Clemens. “Your bill will kill children. It’s important that you be aware of that.”

Clemens then proceeded to call Feldmann’s daughter a “boy” and “son,” and asked whether the family sought counseling “to bring her back to thinking that she was a boy.”