Washington State senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) has been taking heat for sponsoring a bill that would remove gender-specific language in state law. Critics say it's a waste of time. So in a newsletter today, she responds, pointing out that these right-wing blowhards would probably think her legislation was an excellent use of time if the tables were turned:
A bill of mine that passed out of the Senate unanimously this week, SB 5077, has drawn an unusual amount of attention in recent weeks. Talk radio personalities and others have asked why I would sponsor legislation to replace outdated gender-specific terms in state statutes with gender-neutral language when our state faces larger, more urgent challenges such as creating jobs and balancing the budget as we recover from recession.
Their argument is that I shouldn’t divert time or money from those urgent needs, and I agree; in fact, if my bill actually did that, I would not have introduced it at all. But the bill does nothing of the sort. The bill is drafted during the legislative interim and costs nothing, nor does it interfere with other tasks such as the major issues we tackles during the legislative session. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle and across the state agreed with me, voting unanimously to pass the bill out of the Senate this week.
Apart from that, some people have questioned the value of replacing traditional terms like “fisherman” with “fisher” or “gripman” with “grip operator.” But if society’s gender history were reversed, I wonder how many men today would feel comfortable being called a “firewoman,” “policewoman” or “fisherwoman.” Even if this is not a monumental issue to some, it is nevertheless observes basic principles of accuracy and respect that I think the vast majority of Washingtonians would agree on.
This legislation is nothing new. In 1983, legislation was passed to require that the Legislature use gender-neutral language in any bills it passes. SB 5077, which I sponsored at the request of the code reviser’s office, simply extends that practice to statutes written prior to 1983.