One word can make all the difference when it comes to definitions. Exhibit A: exchange the words “husband and wife” for a more inclusive term, and you have the phrase “I now pronounce you spouses.” In the state of California, they are paying special attention to keep their vernacular as progressive as possible.
Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill Monday to formally make marriage gender-neutral to reflect the state’s allowance of same-sex unions. According to Senate Bill 1306:
Under existing law, a reference to “husband” and “wife,” “spouses,” or “married persons,” or a comparable term, includes persons who are lawfully married to each other and persons who were previously lawfully married to each other, as is appropriate under the circumstances of the particular case.
The bill would delete references to “husband” or “wife” in the Family Code and would instead refer to a “spouse,” and would make other related changes.
The current wording was set in place when 61 percent of California voters elected to define state recognized marriages as those between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court struck down Proposition 22 in 2008, decrying the restriction as unconstitutional.
Californians again attempted to ban same-sex marriage by approving Proposition 8 by 52 percent. This too, was challenged via the court system and overturned at the U.S. Supreme Court level in the 2013 case Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who authored the Senate Bill, tweeted:
The Gov signed SB 1306, updating our marriage laws to recognize the historic court decisions allowing same-sex couples to marry in CA.— Mark Leno (@MarkLeno) July 7, 2014
Words are, without doubt, one of the key tools used to shape thought. This alteration in the state law is the next step to easing gay unions into cultural acceptance.