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Michigan judges ordered to honor pronouns of parties in court

Wide exterior shot of state Supreme Court building
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all judges to address people in court by the pronouns they use or by “other respectful means.”

“We serve the entire public and are required to treat those who come before us with civility and respect,” Justice Elizabeth Welch said in a concurring statement accompanying the rule. “The gender identity of a member of the public is a part of their individual identity, regardless of whether others agree or approve.”

The statewide rule was approved, 5-2.

Some transgender, nonbinary or gender-fluid people use they, them and their as a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun.

“Courts must use the individual’s name, the designated salutation or personal pronouns, or other respectful means that is not inconsistent with the individual’s designated salutation or personal pronouns,” the Supreme Court said.

During a public comment period earlier this year, some critics cited religious reasons for not wanting to address someone by a pronoun they use.

The rule, which kicks in Jan. 1, will still allow judges to avoid pronouns and refer to someone by their role in the case, such as attorney or plaintiff, followed by a last name.

The rule “does not force anyone to violate their beliefs,” Welch said.

Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano opposed the rule.

“This is a fluid political debate into which our judicial branch of state government should not wade, let alone dive headfirst and claim to have resolved," Zahra said. ”Such hubris has no place within the operation of a judicial branch of state government."

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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