A Catholic bookstore in Florida is suing the city of Jacksonville over a human rights ordinance it claims requires businesses to use transgender pronouns, a requirement the store’s lawyer argues violates the U.S. Constitution by effectively compel speech.
“Free speech is for everybody,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Hal Frampton told Fox News Digital. “Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment.”
ADF filed the lawsuit Feb. 22 on behalf of the Queen of Angels Catholic Store in Jacksonville’s Mandarin neighborhood, alleging that a city ordinance passed in 2017 violates the business’s right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by both federal and state legislation.
The bookstore’s policy, which prohibits gender-neutral pronouns, states that employees “may only use pronouns and titles that align with the biological sex of the person to whom they refer, whether the person is a colleague, customer, or any member of the public. according to The Florida Times-Union.
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“If someone interacting with the bookstore requests a pronoun or form of address that would violate our policy, employees should respectfully and charitably decline and instead use a form of address that does not conflict with biological origin one’s gender, such as one’s first or last name,” the policy states.
According to the lawsuit, bookstore owner Christie DeTrude wanted to share the pronoun policy with her seven part-time employees in a blog post on the store’s website, but noted it would violate three provisions of the city ordinance. The legal action also claims the law violates due process rights.
“These laws are much more ubiquitous than most people realize.”
Frampton told Fox News Digital that he got involved in the case because the law in Jacksonville “suppresses free speech” by telling businesses like the bookstore “that if they blog about their beliefs about gender and human sexuality and if they can’t to use pronouns that do not agree with biology, then they risk breaking the law.”
The lawyer noted that under the ordinance, such businesses “can be subject to fines, investigations, punitive damages and all kinds of terrible things simply for writing a blog post explaining their beliefs.”
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Frampton drew parallels between the case in Jacksonville and similar cases ADF has fought nationally. He noted the cases of Andrew Fox, a volunteer chaplain in Texas who was fired from the Austin Fire Department for a personal blog post against biological men in women’s sports, and Nicholas Meriwether, a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio who was allegedly forced to use transgender pronouns.
“I think people would be shocked by how many states and cities and counties have ordinances very similar to the one in Jacksonville,” Frampton said. “They’ve been passed in a very large number of places under the guise of anti-discrimination, and yet they compel speech and silence dissenters. So I think these laws are much more ubiquitous than most people realize.”
Frampton warned that similar laws are emerging “in governments across the country, starting with the Biden administration and its interpretation of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act” that requires employers to use their employees’ preferred pronouns.
“I think this is all part of a narrative of government officials across the country using gender identity ideology to invalidate those who disagree,” Frampton said.
Frampton said he has not yet been contacted about the case by Republican Gov. Ron DeSandis, whose office did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. However, the lawyer said he is “hopeful that as we file these cases, as we bring these stories to light, that courts and governments across the country will become aware of the attacks on free speech and stand up for our Constitution”.
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The city of Jacksonville did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.