After the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday that would cut much of the gender-specific terminology from the state’s constitution, Utahns will get the final say on the proposal next year.
SJR7 would edit the constitution’s language to replace terms like “husband” and “wife” with “spouse,” and would swap out words like “man,” “him" and “he” with “person,” “the accused" and “himself or herself.”
If ultimately approved by voters in 2020, the resolution would make changes to six of the 237 sections in the Utah Constitution that the proposal’s sponsor, Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, has said are “a little bit out of alignment with the rest.”
Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, and the proposal’s House sponsor, gave lawmakers a taste of the areas that would be changed during discussion Wednesday.
“In Section 11 where the courts will be open to everyone, not just ‘he and him’” Knotwell noted, “as well as Section 12, where all accused persons have rights, not just ‘he.’”
The resolution has been promoted as a way to make the constitution more consistent and also received strong support from the Senate, where it passed unanimously on Feb. 26.
“As the 29th ‘her’ in this [Senate], I appreciate the good work you’ve done with this,” Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, told Henderson during the resolution’s second Senate reading.
A list that showed fewer than 30 women have served in the Utah Senate since Martha Hughes Cannon became the first female state senator in Utah and in the nation recently circulated among legislators and caused a stir on social media.
One other proposal to change the Utah Constitution — this one to cut a slavery exemption — has been moving through the Legislature. The House unanimously voted to advance HJR8 last month, and it is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate.