Oakland ballot Measure R to use gender-inclusive, neutral language within city charter

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Monday, November 7, 2022
Oakland Measure R to remove gender-specific language from city charter
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On Tuesday, Oakland residents will vote on Measure R, which would amend the city charter to remove gender-specific language and instead use gender-inclusive and gender-neutral language.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- On Tuesday, Oakland residents will vote on Measure R, which would amend the city charter to remove gender-specific language and instead use gender-inclusive and gender-neutral language.

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As an example, the charter, which was adopted in 1968, still refers to the Mayor using male pronouns. The measure would change the word "fireman" to "firefighters" in the city charter.

"Words matter," said Candice Koshman, an engineer for the Oakland Fire Department. "They really do. They can, they can hurt or heal. So our goal is definitely, in the Oakland fire department, to be all inclusive. So I'm really excited to hear about this. This is great."

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Brooke Meredith, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them, is a firefighter in Oakland and said hearing the word firemen automatically excludes a lot of people. Meredith said with more inclusivity, more people want to be part of the organization and career.

"I think language is very important, especially in terms of inclusivity and diversity and part of what we've been doing in Oakland, and with the help of Candice, with the town firefighter group, is exposing people to people like female-identified folks and non-binary folks to the job of firefighter and changing the language from fireman to firefighter honors who we want to come in, and also the people doing the job now and who have been doing the job because it's been quite a while, it hasn't just been men doing this job," Meredith said.

Oakland adopted a resolution in 2020, establishing a city policy requiring city affairs to be conducted in a way that uses gender-inclusive language accounting for all gender identities and doesn't assume a specific gender. That would include when it comes to city laws, policies, and communications.

A simple majority is needed for the measure to be adopted.

If voters approve the proposed Charter amendment, the city charter would change accordingly.

There isn't formal opposition to this measure.

Learn more about Measure R here.

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