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House Democrats Introduce Gender-Neutral Laws Bill

House Democrats Introduce Gender-Neutral Laws Bill

Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Summer Lee and Robert Garcia

The legislation seeks to removed gendered language from the U.S. Code.

Three Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at ushering in gender blindness in U.S. laws.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts., Pennsylvania Rep. Summer Lee, and Rep. Robert Garcia, a gay California congressman, announced the Equality in Our Laws Act. The bill would enshrine gender equity in the U.S. legal code by replacing masculine generics with gender-neutral language.

For example, rather than using “he,” the law should use “the Secretary” when referring to the head of a federal agency, or rather than a “fireman,” laws should reference a “firefighter,” a statement announcing the bill read.

As a result of this change, the U.S. code would be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, particularly those who are gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex, according to the announcement. Several states, including Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, have already succeeded with similar efforts.

According to the act, the Office of Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) would be instructed to revise the code’s non-positive law portions non-substantively and gender-neutrally; and it would require OLRC to prepare a draft bill containing non-substantive, gender-neutral changes to the code’s positive law sections.

Research cited by the lawmakers shows that masculine generics (he/him/his) reinforce gender stereotypes and discrimination by reflecting sexist social structures and reinforcing gender stereotypes. Men are perceived as more qualified for high-status leadership positions over their women counterparts when they have masculine job titles, according to a 2015 study.

“At a time where gender equality has yet to be enshrined and recognized in our constitution, it is crucial we take every step necessary to codify dignity, humanity, and equality for all in our laws – and that includes the language we use. We must be intentional about including women and LGBTQ+ folks in our country’s legal code,” Pressley said in a statement.

“America has long been a beacon of freedom and equality in the world. Yet, our legal code — the very foundation of our society — continues to use a language that isn’t reflective of the country’s diversity; it speaks in masculine generics, silencing women and folks who are a significant part of our diverse community,” Garcia said. “The introduction of gender-neutral language throughout the U.S. Code will help ensure the law is truly representative of all Americans.”

The lawmakers note that gender-neutral language is increasingly used by organizations and governments to combat stereotyping and discrimination.

Lee added, “Words matter - especially the words that form the foundations of our country’s rule of law. It’s not shocking that, for generations, the U.S. code intentionally wrote out women, Black, brown, queer and marginalized folks. What is shocking is that today, equality is enshrined into neither our laws nor our constitution–meaning neither our laws nor our constitution protects all people.”

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