Last week, Justice Francesca Marzari of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, declared a father guilty of “family violence” against his 14-year-old daughter on the sole basis that he had engaged in “expressions of rejection of [her] gender identity.” These “expressions” revolved entirely around his polite refusal to refer to his daughter as a boy in private, and his steady choice to affirm that she is a girl in public.
As previously reported, the BC Supreme Court ordered in February that 14-year-old Maxine* receive testosterone injections without parental consent. Accordingly, Maxine began regular injections at British Columbia (BC) Children’s Hospital over the course of the last two months.
Her father, Clark*, strongly objects to this treatment and immediately sought to reverse the decision in the BC Court of Appeal. Hoping to raise awareness of his case, Clark gave a number of interviews to media outlets, including The Federalist. In these interviews, he repeatedly referred to his daughter as a girl, stating to The Federalist that “she is a girl. Her DNA will not change through all these experiments that they do.”
While many might take this to be an honest statement of biological fact, Marzari quoted it as a prime example of Clark’s “family violence of a public denial of [Maxine’s] gender identity.” Marzari convicted Clark of this violence, and issued a “protection order” preventing him from speaking to journalists or the public about his case.
While the main thrust of Marzari’s ruling focused on Clark’s public statements, Marzari also ordered that Clark be enjoined from “exposing” Maxine to any materials that might “question whether [her] gender identity is real or the treatments [she] seeks are in [her] best interests.” This order arose from the fact that, in mid-March, Clark invited his daughter to watch a video of a small-time Canadian conservative commentator with him.
The video contained a section discussing Maxine’s case, which she quickly recognized. She told her father she “did not want to watch the video, and went to [her] room.” This incident, according to Marzari, was a clear case of an “attempt to persuade [Maxine] to abandon treatment,” and, hence, of family violence.
Family Violence via Talking in Public?
What Marzari found particularly egregious, however, was not Clark’s private interactions with his daughter but his “continued willingness to provide interviews to the media … in which he identifies [Maxine] as female, uses a female name for [Maxine] … and expresses his opposition to the therapies [Maxine] has chosen.” According to the court, this willingness placed Maxine at “a significant risk of harm.”
This harm was not so much feared because Maxine’s anonymity might be breached (it is worth noting that Maxine previously sought to have the press publish her real name), but because Clark’s “family violence of a public denial of [Maxine’s] gender identity” was regarded as likely to cause Maxine distress. Marzari argued that such a denial about such a “deeply private aspect of [Maxine’s] innermost thoughts and feelings” was likely to lead to a variety of dangers, “including self-harm.”
Marzari argued that the “people and organizations” to whom Clark granted interviews had shown themselves “fundamentally opposed” to transgender ideology, yet Clark “continued to support the media organizations posting his commentary with additional interviews.” This kind of attitude was, in Marzari’s view, justification for enjoining Clark from sharing any information with journalists—or with practically anyone outside his legal team—about his daughter’s “sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical health, medical status or therapies.”
The court also emphasized that Clark must not allow relevant documents (petitions, affidavits, letters, court orders, etc.) to come into the hands of third parties not “authorized by order of this court,” or with “written consent” from his daughter.
While forbidding Clark to speak to the public about his daughter’s case, Marzari stated that she was not overriding Clark’s “freedom of thought and speech.” “There is no requirement that [Clark] change his views about what is best for [Maxine],” she explained. “It is only how he expresses those views privately to [Maxine] and publically to third parties that is affected.”
The fact that Clark is now not allowed to express his views publicly to anyone at all was, apparently, understood to be a fairly imposed consequence for his previous court-objected behavior. Had he strictly abstained from referring to his daughter “as a girl or with female pronouns,” he might not have been guilty of family violence and so subject to this order.
While the judge’s view of matters enjoys support on the political left, some feel the ruling is biased and politically motivated. Kari Simpson, president of Canadian pro-family organization Culture Guard, argued that Marzari’s decision severely limits Clark’s freedom of speech. Citing Marzari’s significant and recent history of LGBT and pro-abortion activism before her 2017 appointment to the BC Supreme Court, Simpson argued that she was operating as an “activist judge” more interested in delivering a ruling convenient to her cause than enforcing laws designed to protect families and children.
Unfortunately, the gag order on Clark makes it difficult to report his reaction to this new development in his case. In the meantime, his appeal of the court’s original ruling regarding testosterone injections is set to be heard on May 14.