OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee this week signed off on the final installment of a six-year effort to make language in Washington state’s copious laws gender-neutral.
The state already has welcomed “firefighters,” “clergy” and “police officers” into its lexicon under previous bills, but under the most recent measure, terms like “ombuds” and “security guards” replace ombudsman and watchmen.
Dairymen, freshmen and even penmanship also will soon be things of the past, replaced by “dairy farmers,” “first-year students” and “handwriting.”
“It brings us to modern times, to contemporary times,” Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles, the bill’s sponsor, said after the signing. “Why should we have in statute anything that could be viewed as biased or stereotypical or reflecting any discrimination?”
Kohl-Welles, a Democrat from Seattle, introduced her first bill in 2007 to replace references to firemen and policemen and directed the state code reviser’s office to do a full revision of the rest of the code. A 1983 Washington state law already required all new statutes to be written in gender-neutral terms, so state officials were tasked with going through the rest of state statutes dating back to 1854 to revise the rest.
About half of all U.S. states have moved toward such gender-neutral language at varying levels, from drafting bills to changing state constitutions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida and Minnesota already have completely revised their laws as Washington state is doing.
| Associated Press