Michigan residents could be fined and imprisoned for using wrong pronouns under Democrats’ new bill

Democrats in Michigan’s state House have passed a hate speech bill (HB 4474) that could possibly subject those who refer to transvestites by their real names, use the pronouns corresponding with a purported victim’s biological sex, or have their criticisms of gender ideology taken personally by an accuser to felony charges, hefty fines, and jail time.

“As it is written, the risk that disfavored opinions will become criminal under this legislation is too severe,” warned state Rep. Andrew Fink (R) ahead of the 59-50 House vote on June 20 advancing the bill.

The legislation, which would amend the Ethnic Intimidation Act, states that a “person is guilty of a hate crime if that person maliciously and intentionally … intimidates another individual” based wholly or in part on that person’s “gender identity or expression.”

Those perceived to be in violation are guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If the so-called victim of the perceived intimidation is under the age of 18 and the offender is at least 19 years old, then the prison sentence can be extended to five years and the fine doubled.

The legislation, proposed by LGBT activist and state Rep. Noah Arbit (D), defines “gender identity or expression” as “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.”

Intimidation is defined as “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 Daily Mail reported that if this bill is ultimately ratified, then penalties would be based on how alleged victims “feel” about so-called efforts to intimidate.

With leftists and once-respected medical institutions claiming that “deadnaming” and “misgendering” are harmful and this legislation leaving it up to accusers’ feelings to to determine what is criminal, the bill could have a significant chilling effect on free speech, particularly for those noncompliant with LGBT activists’ speech codes.

Earlier iterations would likely have made matters even worse.

Democrats initially scrubbed the requirement that the intimidation be intentional and executed with malicious intent.

Additionally, an earlier iteration of the bill would have enabled so-called victims of nonviolent offenses to take legal action even if the alleged offender had been found innocent in a court of law. To bring a civil cause of action, the alleged victims would only need to claim that they suffered “severe mental anguish” as a result of the so-called hate crimes. They would have been able to seek damages of $25,000.

William Wagner, distinguished professor emeritus at Cooley Law School and former U.S. magistrate judge for the Northern District of Florida, told the Daily Wire, “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.”

“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,” added Wagner.

According to the former magistrate judge, under HB 4474, someone who overhears a religious preacher’s sermon or reads a conservative writer could claim intimidation, citing an attack on his or her “perceived gender identity.”

State Rep. Angela Rigas (R) told the Wire, “The state of Michigan is now explicitly allowing the gender delusion issue to be used as a ‘protected class,'” said Rigas. “This opens up numerous issues when it comes to the courts and the continued weaponization of the system against conservatives. … We saw similar concerns when they wanted to pass blocks on ‘conversion’ therapy. It seems Dems want to be in the business of telling people how to think. We are determined to keep choice and opinion a free choice despite those efforts.”

Besides its potential for weaponization by LGBT activists against conservatives, Wagner stressed that the law is unconstitutional because “the bill determines what is criminal ‘after the action,’ the opposite of the due process required by the Constitution.”

Wagner told the House Criminal Justice Committee earlier this month, “We’re talking millions of dollars for the state in attorney fees that they’ll have to pay when this is challenged, and it inevitably will be by one side or the other.”

Arbit maintains that “these bills do not infringe on anyone’s constitutional right,” reported WEMU.

“Threats and violence and things of that nature and protecting against crime is certainly something that we absolutely should be doing in Michigan. But we shouldn’t be building that around an individual’s feelings of being frightened,” Republican State Rep. Steve Carra told CBS News Detroit. “Scrap this bill. This is not a bill that we need for the state of Michigan.”

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