Massachusetts Statehouse eliminates gendered language, keeps anti-transparency rules

  • Legislators stand and applaud in the Senate Chamber at the Mass. Statehouse, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Boston during the oath of office ceremony for 40 senators. The ornate chamber reopened Wednesday for the first time in more than 18 months after undergoing a 20 million renovation. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2019 9:45:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In an effort to be more gender inclusive, the state House and Senate have adopted new language changes, like referring to the “chair” or “chairperson” of committees instead of “chairman.”

The changes are part of the latest rules package adopted by both the state House and Senate. Among some of the other language updates are calling the governor “Their excellency the Governor” instead of “His Excellency” in the House, as had previously been done. In the Senate, the new rules simply use the term “the Governor.”

“It’s exciting to see small changes,” said Lindsay Sabadosa, who represents the 1st Hampshire District. “It’s long overdue.”

Another change that Sabadosa noticed was Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, referring to senators’ “inaugural speeches” instead of the traditionally used “maiden speech.”

“I think it made a bunch of us cringe when we heard ‘maiden speech,’” she said. “It’s so archaic or patriarchal.”

For her part, Sabadosa’s inaugural speech on the House floor was in support of a different rule change that ultimately didn’t pass. The amendment she spoke about would have made public how politicians vote in committee, as well as all testimony and documents related to a bill. It would have also given lawmakers more time for them to read the final version of a bill before a vote.

Sabadosa said the changes would have meant greater transparency in the legislature. But ultimately the rules stayed mostly the same.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at


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