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Altering Male Pronouns in Washington State Constitution Proposed for Gender-Neutral Terms

Altering Male Pronouns in Washington State Constitution Proposed for Gender-Neutral Terms

For this year’s session, sixty-seven women legislators, just one shy of last year’s record-breaking number, walk the marbled halls of the Washington State Capitol alongside male colleagues. Surprisingly, the Washington constitution, spanning 32 articles and over 250 pages, rarely incorporates “she, her, or herself,” strictly relying on “he, him, or himself” pronouns when articulating the rights and responsibilities of all Washingtonians.

Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, introduced a resolution to the State Government and Tribal Relations House Committee on Wednesday, proposing an amendment to the use of over 100 male pronouns. The resolution aims to replace these pronouns with gender-neutral terms or titles.

Male pronouns within Washington state constitution could be changed to gender-neutral terms | Government |

Ramos expressed, “This just didn’t seem like something that was right, knowing that the constitution was written in 1889 when women didn’t have the right to vote.”

For instance, in article four, section 26 of the Constitution, it is stated, “The county clerk shall be, by virtue of the office, clerk of the superior court.” The proposed resolution aims to modify the use of “by virtue of his office” to “by virtue of their office.”

Legislative seats within the Capitol are currently held by women at around 46%, making them nearly as visible as their male counterparts. Just over four years ago, Speaker of the House Laurie Jenkins, D-Tacoma, made history as the first woman to assume this position.

Drafted and ratified in 1889, the constitution has undergone 109 amendments, with the most recent one in 2019. If passed, the proposed resolution would mark the 110th amendment.

Rep. Sharlett Mena, D-Tacoma, expressed that the resolution represents a relatively straightforward and simple adjustment. As Washington continually progresses, she noted that it would be positive to witness this change reflected in the constitution.

The Spokesman-Review was informed by Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, that the timing of the resolution is deemed inopportune. It’s not that there is any issue with the proposal, but within the confines of a brief 60-day session, there is a multitude of urgent matters, such as crime and drugs.

Concerning the timing, Christian remarked, “Timing brings a whole lot of questions; why pass it now?” He suggested that it might be more appropriate to consider it in a year with a lengthier session.

Cindy Madigan, representing the League of Women Voters of Washington, delivered testimony in favor of the resolution.

Madigan expressed, “Eliminating outdated language that historically represented everyone with male pronouns will bring our constitution into the 21st century.”

What's in a Pronoun? | City Journal

If the amendment secures approval in both the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority vote, it will be presented on the ballot for voters to decide its fate.

Should the amendment be ratified, Washington would align with states like California, Hawaii, Vermont, and New York, whose constitutions exclusively employ gender-neutral language. The decision to eliminate gendered terms in South Dakota is set to face voters later this year.

The resolution was described as a relatively straightforward and simple solution by Rep. Sharlett Mena, D-Tacoma, speaking to The Spokesman-Review. She expressed the view that given Washington’s continuous progress, it would be beneficial to witness this change incorporated into the constitution.

Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, conveyed to The Spokesman-Review that the timing of the resolution is suboptimal. Not that he finds fault with the proposal, but within the confines of a brief 60-day session, numerous urgent issues such as crime and drugs demand attention.

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