State law may use gender neutral language

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by KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 25, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 25 at 11:45 PM

Are they ‘firemen’ or a ‘fire tenders’? Are you a ‘freshman’ or a ‘first-year student’?

These are the kinds of questions Washington State lawmakers will consider as they decide whether to make the Revised Code of Washington to become more gender neutral.

State Bill 5077 aims at making technical corrections to certain gender-based terms in the code by not only changing dozens of words (including the word ‘man’), but changing terms from ‘him’ to ‘him or her’ and rewriting the oath to become a lawyer for example. 

 

The proposed change to the word 'freshman' had lots of people talking on the campus of the University of Washington.

"When you think of a freshman, you don't think a male, you just think a kid that's starting college," said Christina Wang.

KING 5 got similar responses from many of the students we spoke with.

"It's just a name, it's freshmen, everyone's been a freshmen forever," said Adam Jacobson.

They say it will take some getting used to, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're opposed to State Bill 5077 all together.

In fact, the school's newspaper, The Daily, made headlines of its own a few months ago, when it adopted the use of gender neutral pronouns in all of its stories.

"What we did in November was notice that there are some people who don't identify as male or female, and just expand our vocabulary to include that," said the paper's editor-in-chief, Sarah Schweppe.

Schweppe says they got a few comments and questions when the newspaper printed an editorial explaining the decision.  For the most part, she says, students were supportive of the change.

"We're really grateful out community allows us to do that and we can kinda test things out at a college paper, and we really hope to see more publications do it in the future," she said.

Schweppe feels State Bill 5077 is long overdue, and hopes lawmakers are quick to approve it.

“Society has changed,” says Thalia Syracopoulos,  president of women’s rights group Seattle NOW. “Women are in high places and language is a very important expression of the changes in society.”

Not every lawmaker agrees however. In 2012 a similar bill passed through the House with 66 votes for and 32 against. During the 2011 session, the vote was 76-21.

The bill is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor on Monday.

 

Tell us what you think about this proposed change to state law on Facebook.

 

KING 5's Jake Whittenberg and Heather Graf contributed to this story.

 

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