Portland removes gendered language from city charter

Portland City Hall
Portland City Hall in Portland, Oregon. |

Portland, Oregon, is removing gendered language from its city charter in an effort to be more inclusive to members of the LGBT community who may not identify with either gender.

Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, who won reelection earlier this month, took to Twitter last week to announce the changes. “The language of the documents that guide the City should reflect our community,” he said.

“Today, Council authorized the City Auditor to remove feminine and masculine terms from the City Charter. This important step will help make our documents more inclusive of all gender identities.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the Council voted to strike the terms “his or her,” “he or she,” and “himself or herself” from the charter, replacing them with gender-neutral terms. Also, the terms “police women” and “police matrons” were also on the chopping block.

According to The Daily Mail, “The linguistic tweaks – more than five dozen in total – do not require a citywide referendum or voter approval like other amendments to the city charter. A decades-old provision in the document allows the city charter – with approval of the city – to remove gendered language from it.”

Portland is not the only major city to make such changes to its charter. Earlier this year, voters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, approved a ballot initiative that would replace gender-specific language in the city charter with gender-neutral terms.

The roll-out of the proposed changes to the Portland City Charter comes as the City Council prepares to appoint 20 Portland residents to a Charter Commission, which the document requires to take place “no less frequently than every ten years.” Since the last Charter Commission was appointed on Dec. 15, 2010, a new Commission must be appointed within the next month. This year, the City Council “plans to seat the commission no later than December 3, 2020.”

The Charter Commission enables residents of the city to “review and recommend amendments to the Charter.” Each member of the City Council appoints four members who are then subject to confirmation by the council as a whole. Those interested in serving on the Charter Commission submitted applications.

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