Democratic members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives called for elimination of gender-specific language in the House’s operating rules during that chamber’s organizational meeting on Tuesday.
Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, authored the gender-language amendment to House Resolution 1001, saying it is part of an effort to make Oklahoma “an equitable” and “truly representative” state.
Turner’s amendment called for “removing all gender-based pronouns or gender-based references wherever those references appear in the House Rules and replacing or substituting those references with gender-neutral language.”
Turner is the first Muslim elected to the Oklahoma Legislature and self-describes as “gender non-conforming.”
“We have the power to make sure that our constituents show up, whole, and that they can feel welcome in their house, the people’s House,” Turner said. “We have the power to restore visibility—visibility to our two-spirit people, our gender-nonconforming people, our trans community members—that we all have in our districts, and so many more that lie inside and outside of the gender binary, including myself. To deny this amendment would be to deny the existence of so many people in our communities, and myself as well, and the hard work that got us here.”
During explanatory comments on the amendment, Turner also noted the various tribal entities that once roamed on the land where the Oklahoma Capitol is located.
“Just for a quick moment, I want to make sure that I am naming and honoring the land that we are occupying here in Oklahoma City, specifically—so, Kickapoo, Comanche, Osage, and Wichita land,” Turner said.
Turner’s amendment was tabled on a 78-14 vote. Republicans voted in support of tabling Turner’s amendment, while all 14 votes in opposition to the tabling motion were cast by Democratic lawmakers.
The gender-language effort by Oklahoma Democrats occurred only days after congressional Democrats successfully adopted new rules that eliminate gender-specific terms from the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives.
At the congressional level, Democrats adopted rules that struck words such as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece, husband, wife, etc., and replaced them with terms such as parent, child, sibling, parent-in-law, and child-in-law.
The congressional rule also banned use of the words “himself” or “herself” and instead mandated that “themself” should be used in place of those two terms.
The Oklahoma effort is also in line with the policy prescriptions of the National Education Association, parent organization of the Oklahoma Education Association.
At the NEA’s 2019 Representative Assembly, which included the participation of dozens of Oklahoma delegates, the union adopted a resolution saying the NEA “will create space in all individuals’ name tags, badges, and IDs for the individuals’ pronouns.” The accompanying background paragraph explained that this change “supports the LGBTQ+ community by normalizing gender pronouns. Normalizing this across all genders and binaries builds a safe, respectful space for individuals and will give locals information regarding pronouns about their membership creating inclusivity at the local level.”
About the author: Ray Carter is the Director of the Center for Independent Journalism an affiliate of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs