FAIRBANKS — The assembly voted Thursday to scrub the the Fairbanks North Star Borough Code of Ordinances of gender-specific pronouns.
“He” or “she” will be replaced with “they.” “Him” or “her” will become “their.”
The change also applies to the words “brother” and “sister.” The code will change to “sibling.”
New local laws are written using gender neutral pronouns, borough officials said. The ordinance by Assemblywoman Leah Berman Williams makes the practice retroactive; language in past code will reflect the current practice.
The assembly vote abandoning all gender-specific pronouns was unanimous.
Three of four testifiers — all men — said they opposed the change.
“Nobody is offended by these words except people who are really easily offended,” said Lance Roberts, a former assemblyman.
Changing the code will not require a monetary appropriation by the assembly, according to the borough clerk. It also does not police the spoken word.
“It does not say anything about what you have to use in your own language,” Williams said. “It only speaks to change code.”
Roberts said it will make the language in local laws even harder to read. Many people expect the pronoun “they” to refer to more than a singular “he” or “she.”
Testifier Jimmy Fox said the ordinance is about progress and about not making assumptions about gender.
“I think it’s being fair,” he said.
The assembly wound up striking a line in the measure stating “all genders are created equal.”
Questions were also raised about what was meant by the word “created,” and Assemblyman Aaron Lojewski said he preferred to be referred to as a person.
“I don’t want to be thought of as a gender,” he said.
Assemblywoman Marna Sanford reflected on the testifiers who referred to the ordinance as unnecessary.
“As a heterosexual white female middle-class person, I don’t experience racism. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” she said. “Oftentimes, our perspective in our world doesn’t lend itself to being in somebody else’s shoes.”
She said changing the language in the code will make it more inclusive for girls who might otherwise see the pronoun “he” and believe it doesn’t include them.
Co-sponsors were Assemblywoman Liz Lyke and Assemblymen Matt Cooper, Shaun Tacke and Andrew Gray.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.