A new bill passed by the Michigan House of Representatives, HB 4474, has sparked outrage among conservative Republicans and could threaten free speech in the state.
The bill would criminalize causing someone to feel threatened by words – including misusing someone’s desired pronouns – with a potential prison sentence of up to five years or a fine of up to $10,000.
Critics have raised concerns about the implications of this bill and how it will be enforced. State Rep. Angela Rigas said, “The state of Michigan is now explicitly allowing the gender delusion issue to be used as a ‘protected class’,” She went on to say that there are similarities with attempts to block “conversion therapy”, insinuating that Democrats want to control how people think.
The language of the bill defines “intimidate” 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.”
It also considers “sexual orientation” and “gender identity expression” as protected classes under HR 4474.
Gender identity 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.
Critics say it’s absurd
“The state of Michigan is now explicitly allowing the gender delusion issue to be used as a ‘protected class.’ This opens up numerous issues when it comes to the courts and the continued weaponization of the system against conservatives,” said State Rep. Angela Rigas, adding “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.”
The bill, passed by a 59-50 vote in the Democrat-controlled House, now moves to the state Senate for consideration. If passed, it will move to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to sign it.
If signed into law it could have serious consequences for free speech rights in Michigan.
Despite opposition from conservative Republicans in the House who voted against it 50-59, this controversial bill has passed through the Democrat-controlled House and now moves on to consideration in the Senate before potentially reaching Gov. Whitmer’s desk for final approval.
Erica Carlin is an independent journalist, opinion writer and contributor to several news and opinion sources. She is based in Georgia.