Lawmaker Wants To Make Federal Laws Gender Neutral To Reflect Marriage Equality

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced a bill Wednesday to make federal laws that reference marriage gender neutral, now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

"We need to have our values reflected in our laws," she said, adding, "This is a piece of what we have to do to readjust the way everything is framed."

Capps' legislation, which has 23 cosponsors, identifies 31 portions of the federal code that need to be updated. Instead of words like "wife" and "husband," there will be the terms "spouse" or "married couple."

The bill would also fix some areas of gender discrimination written into federal laws. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, for example, refers only to miner's wives as being eligible for survivor benefits. With Capps' change, spouses of miners, regardless of gender, would qualify. It is also currently illegal to kill the president's wife, but not his or her husband.

"We appreciate Rep. Capps introducing legislation to ensure that the words in the U.S. Code appropriately reflect the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, that all marriages are equal," said Human Rights Campaign spokesman Jason Rahlan.

There have also been efforts to make laws gender neutral at the state level. In Washington state, "fisherman" became "fisher" and "journeyman plumber" became "journey-level plumber."

The Justice Department announced on Thursday that the government will extend federal benefits to same-sex couples in light of the Supreme Court ruling.



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