Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, introduced The Gender Equity in Leadership Act – AB 378. AB 378 seeks to update woefully outdated and gender-specific code sections relating to the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Controller, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Board of Equalization. All references to the gender of the office holder would be made neutral.
“Current language in our law that assumes our Governor or our constitutional officers could only ever be a “he” plays into the sexist bias that we in California have been fighting” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “Gendered language is neither precise nor accurate. Gender-neutral language reflects that anyone, regardless of gender identity, can serve at the highest levels of California government.”
In 2021, we have our first elected female Lieutenant Governor, a female Controller, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. The majority of California’s constitutional offices are held by women, yet the California Government Code refers to those office holders as men. For example, the Secretary of State “shall perform such other duties as may be assigned him by law.” That “the Lieutenant Governor may appoint – such clerical assistants as the Lieutenant Governor deems necessary for his office.”
“With a record number of women serving in statewide office, the words we use matter and this update is long past due,” said Lt. Governor Kounalakis. “I may be the first woman elected Lieutenant Governor of California, but I won’t be the last. Making these important changes will make California’s Government Code more inclusive of anyone who serves our great state in the future – no matter their gender identity.”
Equal treatment under the law must include equal representation within it. While current code language doesn’t limit who can actually serve as a constitutional officer – times have changed, and it’s well past time to update our archaic codes to reflect reality and empower all individuals.
“Simply put, words matter, representation matters, and diversity and inclusion should be reflected at all levels of state government in small and big ways” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “California’s Government Code is a reflection of our values, and in a state as diverse as California we need to make it clear that we value all voices. Gender neutral language will reflect our modern understanding, where (cis) male is not the default or preferred candidate and all people, regardless of gender identity, are supported and represented and bring value to the discussion. It is for these reasons that I am proud to join Assemblywoman Bauer-Kahan in introducing this meaningful legislation.”
AB 378 systematically goes through the Government Code, eliminating gendered language in reference to government officers, as well as other members of government and the public.
Coauthors of the bill include: Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, Assemblymember Boerner Horvath, Assemblymember Burke, Senator Durazo, Assemblymember Calderon, Assemblymember Carrillo, Senator Eggman, Assemblymember C. Garcia, Senator Gonzalez, Assemblymember Petrie-Norris, Assemblymember Quirk-Silva, Senator Limon, Assemblymember Reyes, Assemblymember Rubio, Senator Skinner, Assemblymember Wicks, and Senator Wiener.
Eleni Kounalakis is the 50th lieutenant governor of California and the first woman elected to the position. From 2010 to 2013, Kounalakis served as President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom designated Kounalakis as his Representative for International Affairs and Trade Development, and as Chair of the corresponding Interagency Committee that oversees the state’s trade, investment and international relations. Kounalakis is also Chair of the three-member State Lands Commission, and a voting member of the University of California Board of Regents, the California State University Board of Trustees, and the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.