Gender neutral bill gets mixed reaction

Posted at 11:40 AM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 20:16:44-05

A bill that would require Idaho legislation to include gender neutral language got a lukewarm reception in committee as it was introduced Wednesday.

The measure is simple: legislation that does not pertain to a specific gender should not use gender-specific language. For example, a bill introduced last year regarding election laws made several references to lawmakers as the universal masculine "he."

Co-sponsors Reps. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, and Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, say language like this implies the profession of lawmaker is for men, not women.

"Language matters," said Wintrow, a gender studies professor as BSU. "Language informs our perceptions of things and our behaviors. Our goal in this bill is to create an inclusive ability for men and women to see themselves in the law."

The bill was introduced on a split vote, 12-5, including two Republican women, Reps. Shannon McMillan and Gayle Batt. It also received a healthy amount of discussion for a print hearing.

"Women control the world," said committee chair Rep. Thomas Loertscher, who supported printing the bill. "For most men, they are controlled a big deal."

The bill now heads to a public hearing, which the sponsors are hopeful to get.

"This is not a bill that will add cost," said Smith. "It's going to make some people re-do their thinking on the words they use. To me, this is an equality issue."