Catholic Bookstore Sues Florida City Over Right to Misgender Customers

A Catholic bookstore has sued a Florida city over its new non-discrimination law, which requires businesses to use the preferred pronouns of customers.

Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore filed a lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville after the city expanded its human rights ordinance to include protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people, reported the Christian Post. Specifically, the ordinance requires “businesses to address customers using their preferred pronouns and titles regardless of a customer’s biological sex.” It also prevents businesses from “publishing ‘any communication’ a customer or government official might subjectively interpret as making someone feel ‘unwelcome, objectionable, or unacceptable.”

The bookstore claimed that the new ordinance goes against its religious freedom. Store owner Christie DeTrude stated that the store is “a distinctly Catholic business that must follow the church’s teachings on gender identity, including the belief that gender is unchanging. DeTrude would like to circulate an internal employee pronoun policy that would require use of birth pronouns but doing so would go against the ordinance. The bookstore is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal group.

In 2017, the Jacksonville City Council attempted to expand the human rights ordinance to include gender and sexuality, but an appeals court ultimately vetoed the law. The court claimed that the ordinance was not fully written out and thus could not be adopted. It was revised in 2020 and approved by the council with a vote of 15-4.

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo commented on the case:

“I wish that a Catholic institution like Queen of Angels Bookstore would prioritize following the Catholic teaching on honoring the dignity of human beings and treating them with full respect, instead of turning the situation around to make it look like the bookstore itself is a victim. Our faith calls us to a high standard of human interaction where we prioritize the care of other human beings as the highest value.”

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, April 3, 2023

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