Proposed Legislation Aims to Remove Gendered Language from Federal Law, Sparking Debate on LGBTQ+ Rights

by Ethan Roberts
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A new legislation titled the “Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act” has been proposed in the House of Representatives, seeking to replace the terms “husband” and “wife” with gender-neutral language in federal law. The bill, introduced by California Democrat Julia Brownley, aims to align existing laws with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, granting same-sex couples the right to marry. However, the proposal has ignited a contentious debate about LGBTQ+ rights amid concerns of rolling back progress. This article examines the details of the legislation, its purpose, and the polarized responses it has elicited.

The “Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act” Seeks to Promote Inclusive Language

Removing Gendered Terms from Federal Law

California Democrat Julia Brownley has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that aims to replace gendered language in federal law, such as “husband” and “wife,” with gender-neutral terms. The proposed legislation suggests alternatives such as “spouse,” “married couple,” “married person,” and “person who has been, but is no longer, married to.” By amending existing laws, Brownley hopes to ensure that all couples, regardless of gender, are recognized with equal terms in the US Code.

Aligning Federal Laws with Constitutional Rights

In 2015, the Supreme Court delivered its landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, affirming that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry. However, Brownley argues that certain federal laws have yet to reflect and respect this right fully. The proposed legislation therefore aims to rectify this disparity and close the gap between legal recognition and LGBTQ+ rights.

Brownley’s Motivation and the Need for Congressional Action

Protecting Equality Amidst Legal Challenges

Brownley expressed her concerns about recent backlashes against LGBTQ+ rights, citing an “extreme Supreme Court” and state legislatures rolling back protections. She believes it is vital for Congress to demonstrate its commitment to equality by ensuring that federal laws promote inclusivity. Brownley argues that the words used in legislation have immense meaning and should reflect the values of the country.

A Divided Response to the Proposed Legislation

LGBTQ+ Advocates Welcome the Bill

Many advocates for LGBTQ+ rights have embraced Brownley’s bill, viewing it as a step toward advancing equality. They argue that removing gendered terms from federal law not only aligns with constitutional rights but also eliminates discrimination and promotes inclusivity. LGBTQ+ groups hope that this legislation will enhance the visibility and recognition of diverse families and relationships.

Concerns from Conservative Groups

On the other hand, conservative groups have voiced their apprehension about the proposed legislation. Some argue that altering the language used in federal law may erode traditional family values and undermine the sanctity of marriage. Critics assert that this legislation is an overreach that seeks to impose a specific ideology on the American public.

Legal Context and Recent Supreme Court Ruling

A Supreme Court Case and Its Implications

The recent Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis sparked intense debate on First Amendment freedom versus LGBTQ+ non-discrimination. The case brought to the forefront the issue of balancing rights, as the majority opinion favored the First Amendment argument over LGBTQ+ non-discrimination claims. Justice Sonia Sotomayor sharply dissented, viewing the decision as granting a “license to discriminate” and relegating gays and lesbians to a second-class status.

Sharp Disagreements Among Justices

Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring with the majority decision, criticized Sotomayor’s dissent for its alleged misrepresentation of the facts. Gorsuch argued that the dissent failed to understand the nuances of the case and defended the majority’s position. This sharp division among the justices highlights the complexity and ongoing debates surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.


The proposed “Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act” seeks to remove gendered language from federal law, reflecting the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. While proponents view it as a vital step toward increased equality and inclusivity, critics express concerns about erosion of traditional values. As the proposed legislation moves forward, it remains to be seen how society and lawmakers will address the ongoing challenges surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and the intersection between freedom of speech and non-discrimination.

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