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Measure to include gender-neutral language in state constitution approved

There are nearly 70 instances in the Minnesota Constitution where terms such as “he,” “his,” or “him” are used. There are no female pronouns in the document.

A bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL-Maple Grove) would give Minnesotans the chance to change that.

HF2766 would place the following question on the ballot for voters in the 2020 general election: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to use gender-neutral terms without any consequential changes in its legal effect?”

The bill was approved by the House Government Operations Committee Tuesday and referred to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. The companion, SF522, is sponsored by Sen. Sandra Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) and awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

If voters approve the amendment, language throughout the constitution where male pronouns are used would be replaced by gender-neutral terms. For example, “he” would be replaced by “the governor” when referring to the person holding that office.

Bahner said the change is needed to modernize the constitution to “make sure it identified with where we are at today.”

The changes would not alter the substance or effect of the constitution, and Bahner said she made sure to enlist support for the bill, which has more than 20 co-sponsors, from both sides of the aisle.

Heather Allison, president of ERA Minnesota, said language has changed a great deal since the constitution was written in the 1850s and that the documents on which the state’s laws are based must also change.

“There’s no reason why amending the Minnesota state constitution to use gender-neutral language, so that is truly represents and respects all of Minnesota’s people, should not happen now,” she said, “at a time when representation and inclusion matter more than ever.”

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