Politics & Policy

Democrats Propose Banning Gendered Language in House Rules

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) during votes at the first session of the 117th Congress in Washington, D.C., January 3, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday proposed a series of House rule changes that include banning the use of gendered terms in favor of more inclusive ones, ditching “he” and “she” for “they.”

Instead of using the pronouns “he” or “she,” members would be required to use “member,” “delegate,” or “resident commissioner.” Instead of saying “father” and “mother,” members would refer to that individual as “parent,” and “brother” and “sister” would be replaced with “sibling.”

Pelosi said the “unprecedented, bold” ethics and legislative reforms will make the House more “accountable, transparent and effective.” The speaker introduced the changes with Rules Committee Chair James McGovern, who said the new rules do not “tinker around the edges of ethics reform.”

“These future-focused proposals reflect our priorities as a Caucus and as a Country – including crushing the coronavirus, addressing economic disparity, combating the climate crisis, advancing inclusion, and promoting integrity in government,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The proposed ban of gendered terms drew scorn from some House Republicans who mocked the attempt at political correctness.

“Democrats are banning ‘gendered’ pronouns from House rules … This is out of control. Can we get an amen?” quipped Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, referring to a House Democrat who had closed Congress’s opening prayer a day earlier with “Amen and A-woman.”

“This is stupid. Signed, – A father, son, and brother,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a tweet.

Other changes include barring former lawmakers convicted of federal crimes from the House floor and establishing an “Office of Diversity and Inclusion.”

Republicans are particularly miffed about a change preventing them from offering some last-minute amendments after a bill is approved but before it is sent back to committee. The new rule allows the minority to demand a vote on returning the bill to committee but bars them from proposing amendments at that point.

McCarthy said in a tweet that the amendment rule change “just destroyed over 100 years of representation in Congress.”

Democrats hold a slim 222 majority in the House for the new session of Congress.

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