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Indiana May Become More Gender Neutral

Indiana's official language would become more gender neutral under a bill that's been approved by the House.
Indiana's official language would become more gender neutral under a bill that's been approved by the House.
February 11, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – Women elected to statewide office in Indiana get referred to as "he" in the laws that spell out their duties.

Some female lawmakers are now seeking to change that.

When State Auditor Suzanne Crouch took office in 2013 she noticed her job description read "he" or "his." She says words matter, and they shouldn't have a limiting effect.

The 17 female members of the Indiana House agree, and State Rep. Sharon Negele has put together a bill to address the issue.

Negele says the laws were written so long ago that they only reflected a man holding the jobs. She says that needs to change, even though defaulting to the male gender is a hard habit to break.

"Well, we've been raised to use those words, and so it's even hard for us as females to convert our brains to saying it differently, but over time that's the change we need to address, and it will work it's way into normal language," she states.

The House has approved Negele's bill and it is before a Senate committee. If the legislation passes, it would mean the job descriptions would change for the governor, attorney general and other statewide office holders. It would also call for any new legislation to be gender neutral.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 20 states have made moves to ensure all of their official language is gender neutral.

New York and Rhode Island have completely revised their state constitutions.

George Angelone, executive director of the Legislative Services Agency, says doing that would take Indiana years to complete.

"It's the technique of how we're going to do it over a number of years that is the issue, not that the Legislature wants to keep them," he explains.

Angelone says keeping gender references neutral in new legislation is easier than re-doing all of the old laws. He says some of them have been on the books since the state was founded 200 years ago.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN