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Berserkeley? Liberal CA City Goes Gender Neutral, No More 'Manpower' or 'Manholes'

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The Berkeley, Calif., City Council unanimously voted to strike any gender-specific words from its current municipal code, meaning a "manhole" will now be known as a "maintenance hole."

Berkeley's municipal code uses mostly male pronouns, such as "he", but the new code will switch from he and she to "they" when referring to individuals, according to television station KTVU.

The new ordinance was passed by the council on its first reading. The idea was introduced last March by city council member Rigel Robinson, 23.

"Language has power. The words we use are important," Robinson told the television station. "It's not only timely but necessary to make sure that our laws really speak for everyone." 

According to the website Curbed San Francisco, in part the text of the measure reads: 

"Revising the Berkeley Municipal Code to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language to indicate that whenever a gender-neutral personal pronoun is used, it shall be deemed to include the feminine and masculine also."

Some other word changes include:  A bondsman will now be known as a "bondsperson."  A fireman will now be a firefighter. Craftsmen will become artisans.

And the list goes on.  Heirs will be changed to beneficiaries. Manpower will be "human effort" and a pregnant woman will be referred to as pregnant employee.

Click here for a complete list of words that will be changed.

The change to the gender-neutral words will require a second vote by the council on July 23 before becoming a city ordinance. 

A memo to city staff discovered by Curbing San Francisco (LINK) noted "in recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender-nonconforming identities have brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity. Therefore, 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."

KTVU reported they found a mixed reaction to the gender-neutral changes. 

"If it makes the city happy I guess they can go ahead. They can change it to maintenance hole. I'm sure it wouldn't hurt anybody,"  Erin Davis told the station.

Other Berkley residents were not in agreement with the council 

"No. Uh...I think it would remain the same. Why change it?" said Athena Addison.

"They come up with these cockamamie things all the time," said an unidentified older resident. 

And at one Berkeley fraternity, Andrew Haits, a UC student had this reaction: "Come on. Enough is enough," he snickered. "I think they've gone too far. The reason why they're gender-separated is because they are gender separated. Fraternities are male and sororities are female."

In addition, all forms created by the City of Berkeley will include a space for users to designate which pronoun they prefer, according to the television station

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of