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In the News: Washington State Institutes New Gender-Neutral Vocabulary

Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2013 by Pivotal Law Group

On April 22, 2013, Washington governor Jay Inslee signed into law the final piece of a six-year effort to substitute gender-neutral vocabulary into state statutes. Since 2007, Lawmakers have been passing a series of bills to root out gender bias from Washington statutes.  A 1983 Washington state law required that all statutes to be written in gender-neutral terms unless a specification of gender was intended.

alt textPreviously, words such as “ombudsmen” and “watchmen” were replaced with “ombuds” and “security guards,” respectively. Now, words such as “fisherman”, “penmanship” and “freshman” will be replaced with “fisher”, “handwriting” and “first-year student” (respectively).  However, other words such as “seaman” and “airmen” proved difficult to find replacements for and will remain on the statutes.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly half of all U.S. states have moved toward incorporating gender-neutral language into state code, from drafting bills to changing state constitutions. Some of these states, including Florida and Minnesota have already completely revised their laws as Washington state has done.

For further information, contact Emily Rao at (206) 340-2008.

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