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Washington State’s Laws Get a Sex Change


Washington governor Jay Inslee yesterday signed into law the last piece of a multi-year effort to rewrite state statutes in something that resembles Orwell’s Newspeak. Reuters notes that 3,500 state code sections have now been “tediously scrubbed” of gender bias: 

Lawmakers have passed a series of bills since 2007 to root out gender bias from Washington statutes, though a 1983 state mandate required that all laws be written in gender-neutral terms unless a specification of gender was intended.

“This was a much larger effort than I had envisioned. Mankind means man and woman,” said Democratic state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle.

The new gender-neutral references, for example, include “journey-level plumber” instead of “journeyman plumber,” “handwriting” in place of “penmanship,” and “signal operator” for “signalman.”

“There’s no good reason for keeping our legal terms anachronistic and with words that do not respect our current contemporary times,” Kohl-Welles, the 475-page bill’s sponsor, told Reuters.

As it turns out, Washington is behind the curve in this effort: Seven states have already passed laws requiring similar changes, while at least nine others are considering such moves.