A House bill that seeks to replace all male pronouns in the Minnesota Constitution with gender-neutral language cleared its first committee Tuesday.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL-Maple Grove) and now has 26 cosponsors in the House, including nine Republicans. Sen. Sandra Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) is carrying the bill in the Senate, where it is awaiting a hearing in the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.
The House Government Operations Committee approved the bill Tuesday and sent it to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee for a second hearing.
According to the House Public Information Services office, male pronouns appear nearly 70 times in the Minnesota Constitution. Under Bahner’s bill, they would be replaced with gender-neutral terms such as “their” instead of “his” and “oneself” instead of “himself.”
In cases where the governor is discussed, the pronoun “he” would be replaced by the generic “the governor.”
If the bill clears the State Legislature, then the issue would be placed on the 2020 ballot for Minnesota voters to decide.
“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to use gender-neutral terms without any consequential changes in its legal effect?” states the suggested ballot proposition.
“About 10 years ago, what we did is we went through Minnesota state statutes and we cleaned it up. We cleaned up some language to really, basically, make it modern, make it crisp – make sure it identified with where we are at today, which of course has been done numerous times in our history. This really is the culmination of finally taking the last steps so that our Constitution will match the statutes” Bahner said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Two people testified in favor of the bill, including Heather Allison, president of the Equal Rights Amendment group in Minnesota.
“There’s no reason why amending the Minnesota State Constitution to use gender-neutral language, so that it truly represents and respects all of Minnesota’s people, should not happen now, at a time when representation and inclusion matter more than ever,” she said.
The other testifier said that “women are mentioned zero times” in the Minnesota Constitution, which could “possibly make some citizens feel uncomfortable or perhaps even not as equally protected.”
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