County takes first steps to make county code gender-neutral

King County Council unanimously adopted the first step toward removing gendered terms wherever possible.

  • Monday, December 4, 2017 4:15pm
  • News

From a King County press release:

In 2016, county voters supported a change to King County’s “Constitution,” the King County Charter, replacing gender specific terms with gender neutral language. The Metropolitan King County Council today, Dec. 4, unanimously adopted the first step toward removing gendered terms wherever possible, thereby rendering the County Code gender-neutral.

“The voters have spoken; they want to see the King County Code reflect the inclusive values of our community,” said King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “With this action, we continue to advance King County’s values of fairness and inclusiveness by reflecting them in our governing documents.”

“Updating code language is important to keep terminology proper and respectful of all people,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

“Language matters as we work toward equity and representation for all people,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “Referring to females as generic males or Councilmembers as Councilmen doesn’t cut it. Gender-neutral language was adopted by the federal government decades ago by state in the past ten years ago. King County can do it, too. I began working on gender-neutral language during my tenure in the Legislature and am pleased to work with Councilmembers Balducci and Lambert in carrying it forward at the County.”

The charter amendment approved by the voters adjust identifications such as “Councilman” and “Chairman,” to gender-specific neutral terms such as “Councilmember” and “Chair.” A motion that was adopted as part of the charter amendment directed the clerk of the council to develop options for how to apply gender-neutral references throughout the King County Code. Today’s ordinance was the first step toward achieving that goal.

Gendered pronouns such as he, him, she, or her are replaced with the title of the actor in impacted sentences. One example would be replacing “he or she” and “his or her” with “the individual” and “the individual’s” respectively.

The adopted ordinance is consistent with legislation adopted at the state level in both 1983 and in 2007, which was sponsored by then-Senator Kohl-Welles, concerning the use of gender-neutral language in the Revised Code of Washington.

This is the first revision of the County Code. The next steps will include the development regulations (surface water, roads, construction codes, zoning, etc.) and then the remainder of the titles.

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