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Washington DC may change their legal code to be gender neutral

Rainbow flag in front of the White House
A demonstrator holds a rainbow flag up to the fence surrounding the White House in Washington, DC during the National Equality March for LGBT rights in October 2009. Photo: Tony Webster, Via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0

D.C. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso has introduced a bill to change their governance code to be gender-neutral.

“The bill is quite simple in concept—that our laws ought to reflect our modern understanding, where male is not the default and people of all genders are supported,” Grosso said.

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The Gendered Terms Modernization Amendment Act of 2020 would change references to ‘he’ or ‘she’ in city laws to ‘the individual’ or ‘they.’ Grosso also included a list of suggested terms in the 43-page payment.

Some of the term changes that the bill specifically points out include “chairman” which would become chairperson, “bondsman” which would become bondsperson, “fireman” which would become firefighter, “policeman” which would become police officer, and “ombudsman” which would become ombudsperson.

References to members of a family unit such as father, mother, brother, and sister would also be changed to be gender-neutral.

The bill provides exceptions for bills like the Minority and Women-Owned Business Assessment Act of 2008 that need to refer to gender to achieve a goal.

Grosso stresses that his bill is just a step toward making Washington D.C. a better place.

“Although we have done a lot of research and a lot of work on this, it is not something we should put out there and say: ‘We’ve got all the answers,’” he said.

Sacramento and Detroit are examples of other cities with gender-neutral codes, and the state of Washington instituted a gender-neutral language code in 2013.

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