Catholic Bookstore Sues City Over Gender-Discrimination Law

Several cases in recent years have pitted faith-based organizations and businesses owned by religious individuals against certain laws, particularly those ostensibly aimed at combatting discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Now, a Catholic bookstore in Florida is pushing back against a local law that its owners believe could lead to a future citation.

Christie DeTrude, who owns the Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore in Jacksonville, is citing the business’s policy regarding the use of pronouns as a possible violation of the local ordinance pertaining to gender discrimination. The firm policy requires that employees only use pronouns that correspond with an individual’s biological sex.

When engaging with someone who asks to be addressed differently, employees are instructed to “respectfully and charitably decline, and instead use a form of address that does not contradict someone’s biologically originating sex, such as the person’s first or last name.”

As of this writing, no citations had been made against the bookstore, which filed a federal civil suit against the city in anticipation of potential future action. Even without a formal citation, DeTrude argues that the ordinance, which requires businesses to engage with individuals in accordance with their gender identity, is unconstitutional.

“In effect, the law requires this Catholic bookstore to stop being fully Catholic,” the court document asserts. “And if it refuses, the store faces cease-and-desist orders, expensive investigations, hearings, uncapped fines, attorney-fee awards, and unlimited damages.”

The conservative legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom is representing DeTrude and the bookstore and highlighted the plaintiffs’ key arguments in a recent op-ed published in the Florida Times-Union.

Although the organization frequently takes up faith-based cases, attorney Rachel Csutoros argued that the fundamentals at play in this dispute are not confined to the religious realm, writing that “whether it’s Queen of Angels or the secular bookstore down the street, businesses shouldn’t be punished just because the government doesn’t agree with their beliefs.”

As for the aim of DeTrude’s lawsuit, she hopes to achieve a ruling that declares the city ordinance invalid due to the protections found in the U.S. Constitution’s First and 14th amendments. She is also asking for financial compensation to cover legal fees and reimbursement for the alleged infringement on the bookstore’s “free speech, press, expressive-association, assembly, due-process and free-exercise rights.”