Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) has introduced a bill that seeks to replace the terms “husband” and “wife” in federal law with the gender-neutral term “spouse.” The proposed legislation, known as the “Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act”, aims to ensure that all marriages, regardless of the gender of the partners, are equally recognized and respected under federal law.
The bill comes several years after the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry. Brownley’s bill aims to revise this by striking the use of gendered terms throughout the federal code.
“Although the Supreme Court ruled several years ago that same-sex couples have the right to marry, there are many instances where the U.S. Federal Code does not respect their rights,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This commonsense bill will strike the use of the gendered terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ throughout the federal code and replace them with the gender-neutral term ‘spouse’ to ensure that our federal code reflects the equality of all marriages.”
The proposed legislation seeks to amend a number of existing laws by replacing the terms “husband” and “wife” with phrases such as “a married couple,” “married person” and “person who has been, but is no longer, married to” depending on the context. Federal laws targeted for amendment include the “Ethics in Government Act of 1978,” the “Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993,” and the “Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971,” among others.
The introduction of the bill comes at a time when there is growing concern from the left wing about the rollback of rights for the LGBTQ+ community by state legislatures and the Supreme Court. “Now more than ever, with an extreme Supreme Court and state legislatures rolling back the rights of the LGBTQ community, it is imperative that Congress showcases its commitment to supporting equality,” Brownley said.
Brownley proposes to replace all instances of the terms “wives” and “husbands” in federal law with the gender-neutral term “spouses.” This includes a range of specific amendments to the wording of existing Acts, such as:
- The Act of August 16, 1941, where “wife” is to be replaced by “spouse”
- The Act of August 4, 1955, where “husband and wife” is to be replaced by “married couple”
- The Act of December 2, 1942, where “wife or husband” is to be replaced by “spouse”
- The Act of February 28, 1891, where “husband and wife” is to be replaced by “a married couple”
- The Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949, where “Wives or Husbands” in the heading of section 16(c) is to be replaced by “Spouses”, among other amendments
- The Central Intelligence Agency Retirement Act, with multiple instances of “wife or husband” replaced by neutral phrases such as “person who has been, but is no longer, married to”
- The Ethics in Government Act of 1978, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, where “husband, wife” is replaced by “spouse”