Earlier this month, Multnomah County Commissioners approved an update to its code of ordinances to use gender neutral pronouns.
The code book—which outlines county policies and procedures—now uses "they," "them" and "theirs" pronouns. Commissioners voted on June 7, the first week of Pride month, to replace 29 uses of gender-specific references in the official document.
"This is our code of ordinances. It is a foundational document that Multnomah County uses to create legislation that helps members of the public know their duties, obligations and responsibilities, and it states the Board's policy direction," Multnomah County Attorney Jenny Madkour said during the meeting. "This is a real opportunity for us to bring to this Board an amendment to this code that will further reflect the values of this community."
Ben Duncan, the county's chief diversity officer, added that it's easy to "take for granted what a personnel rule or policy document can mean for everyday practice." But by amending the code, the board "recognizes that language matters; that being reflected and represented and respected are core elements of feeling valued; of being seen and heard."
Board members, including Sharon Meieran, Susheela Jayapal, Jessica Vega Pederson and Lori Stegmann also encouraged individual departments to update county documents with gender inclusive language.
"Language does matter, and sometimes we can forget that," Jayapal said. "This language change recognizes our identities and makes visible those who have not been visible in the past."