McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

Like many other states, California requires the office of the Legislative Counsel to draft measures – including bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments – in a gender-neutral manner.

In 2018, California adopted Assembly Concurrent Resolution 260. According to the language of ACR 260, it is intended to encourage the Legislature to engage in a coordinated effort to revise existing statutes and introduce new legislation with inclusive language by using gender-neutral pronouns, or even reusing nouns to avoid the use of gendered pronouns. In addition, ACR 260 encourages state agencies to engage in similar efforts to use gender-neutral pronouns and avoid the use of gendered pronouns when drafting policies, regulations, and other guidance.

Basically, in California and most of the other states, bill drafters are told to avoid male or female gendered terms except when a gender-specific term is applicable. Nonetheless, in most instances, drafters are admonished to make sure that neither intent nor clarity of language is sacrificed when using gender-neutral language.

Legislative drafters are also making their way through existing statutes in order to transition over to gender-neutral language with existing laws. In addition to using gender-neutral language in drafting new statutes that are being proposed, legislative counsel around the country are looking at existing code sections and reviewing them, and modifying them to ensure compliance with this guidance.

What are some examples of this? Drafters should use police officer, rather than policeman, or Presiding Officer, instead of Chairman. In other instances, it may be more difficult to use gender-neutral language. As a result, suggestions to legislative drafters include repeating the subject of the sentence or the original noun, omitting the phrase with the pronoun if you don’t need that particular phrase, or even rewriting the entire sentence to avoid the need for using any sort of pronoun.

You can find the transcript of today’s audio here.