Oakland council to consider gender-neutral, inclusive language in new laws

Four Oakland city leaders are sponsoring a resolution that will mean city laws, communications and policies have language that is gender-neutral and gender-inclusive, the city attorney’s office said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Sheng Thao along with City Attorney Barbara Parker will introduce the resolution at the City Council meeting Oct. 6.

The sponsors are hoping Oakland will join other governments including the city of Berkeley and the state of California in amending the language of gender in policy and law.

“Our community is richer when everyone can live their fullest and truest self in our city and feel a deep sense of belonging in Oakland,” Schaaf said in a statement. “We do hope this action contributes to Oakland’s march toward that more just society.”

A plan in the resolution calls for putting a Charter amendment before voters in 2022 to make the Charter consistent with the changes proposed in the resolution.

“Our community is richer when everyone can live their fullest and truest self in our city and feel a deep sense of belonging in Oakland.”Mayor Libby Schaaf

“Nonbinary, transgender, pangender, intersex, genderqueer, agender, two-spirit, and other people who may fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly male or female have every right to see themselves reflected in the laws and policies that govern them,” Parker said in a statement.

“LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights, and civil rights,” Parker added.

City officials said the change would be a first for Oakland, but a growing movement already exists in California for similar changes.

The state Legislature in 2017 enacted the Gender Recognition Act, which recognized nonbinary as a gender marker on state-issued identification.

The following year in a resolution, state legislators adopted gender-neutral language and gender-neutral pronouns for new and revised laws, much like Oakland legislators are proposing.

Berkeley’s changes came last year when it enacted a new ordinance.

Oakland’s city Charter currently uses male pronouns to refer to the mayor. Amending the Charter will require more time because it requires input from voters, city officials said.

If the resolution passes, it will be implemented before 2022.

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