Court Battles

Judge: Referring to transgender people by chosen pronouns ‘courtesy,’ not law

Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a President Trump appointee, this week cautioned that courts follow “convention,” not “binding precedent,” in referring to transgender individuals by their chosen pronouns.

Duncan went on to refer to Kathrine Nicole Jett, who was known as Norman Varner in previous court hearings, as “gender dysphoric.”

The defendant had asked to change Norman Varner to Kathrine Nicole Jett on previous conviction records as well as require the use of female pronouns. Duncan called the latter request a “quixotic undertaking.”

“No authority supports the proposition that we may require litigants, judges, court personnel, or anyone else to refer to gender-dysphoric litigants with pronouns matching their subjective gender identity,” Duncan wrote in his opinion.

“But the courts that have followed this ‘convention,’ have done so purely as a courtesy to parties.”

Duncan also notes in his ruling that while Congress has legislated in specific “gender identity discrimination,” it “has said nothing to prohibit courts from referring to litigants according to their biological sex, rather than according to their subjective gender identity.”

Duncan previously faced pushback from a number of civil rights groups for his views on LGBTQ rights from during his 2018 confirmation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The groups argued he had a personal agenda to set back LGBTQ rights. Duncan previously served as the appellate counsel for North Carolina officials arguing in favor of a state law banning transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.

“As the majority notes, though no law compels granting or denying such a request, many courts and judges adhere to such requests out of respect for the litigant’s dignity,” Judge James L. Dennis wrote in a dissent to Duncan’s opinion, according to NBC News. Dennis was appointed by former President Clinton.

Tags Donald Trump Legal recognition of non-binary gender North Carolina Stuart Kyle Duncan Transgender

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