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California

‘Manholes’ are out as Berkeley removes gender-specific language from city code

Berkeley manhole cover
A motorist drives past a manhole cover at Stuart Street and McGee Avenue in Berkeley.
(Paul Chinn/The Chronicle)

A manhole will become a maintenance hole, artisans will replace craftsmen and firefighters and police officers no longer will be identified by their gender in Berkeley’s city code under an ordinance passed by city leaders Tuesday.

The City Council voted unanimously to replace more than two dozen terms often used in the city’s municipal code with gender-neutral words.

“In recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity,” council member Rigel Robinson wrote in a letter to the council in March.

Berkeley’s current municipal code contains mostly masculine pronouns, according to a city staff report.

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“It is both timely and necessary to make the environment of City Hall and the language of city legislation consistent with the principles of inclusion,” Robinson said.

Broadening social awareness of transgender and gender nonconforming identities has led to sweeping changes across the state.

In 2014, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that replaced “husband” or “wife” in state law with the gender-neutral term “spouse.” In 2017, California became the first state to provide a third gender option on state driver’s licenses, identification cards and birth certificates with the passage of Senate Bill 179.

Berkeley has also instituted some other changes. In February, the city began extending the option to all employees to receive a name badge with a preferred pronoun printed alongside their professional title.


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