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Proposed Texas Legislation -- and How Gender-Neutral Language Protects & Respects LGBTQ+ Families

Published Monday, Dec. 21st, 2020

State senator Nathan Johnson (D-TX) of Texas’s District 16 recently prefiled a bill for 2021, proposing “certain statutory changes to reflect and address same-sex marriages and parenting relationships and to the removal of provisions regarding the criminality or unacceptability of homosexual conduct.”


(To read the full text of S.B. 129, filed Nov. 9th, 2020, head here.) 


The bill includes changes to gendered language in the Family Code that currently refer to married partners only as ‘husband and wife’ or ‘man and woman’, and to parents as ‘the father’ or ‘the mother,’ and seeks to replace this language with neutral terms like ‘spouse’ and ‘parent’, to include couples in same-sex marriages. 


Other changes would address gendered language describing the surviving spouses of deceased veterans, and remove sections from the Health & Safety Code that require sexual edcuation curriculum to describe homosexuality as an unacceptable lifestyle for the general public, and a criminal offense. 


These proposed changes are a great reminder that the language we use matters, not just in the law (although it’s especially powerful there), but in all of our interactions. Simple changes to language, for example changing ‘husband and wife’ to ‘spouses’, have big impacts. 



image of gay wedding cake topper, texas proposed legislation lgbtq marriage, gendered language changes



In our laws, these changes toward inclusivity ensure that the protections afforded opposite-sex couples are extended to include same-sex couples, and that LGBTQ+ families are represented and respected as equals. In our relationships and community, they do much the same -- demonstrating respect and an individual commitment to the protection and care of all families, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. 


In wedding ceremonies celebrating LGBTQ+ couples, gender-neutral words or other identity affirming language is incredibly important, too! And while laws are slow to change with the times, adjusting language at this person-to-person, officiant-to-couple level can happen much faster. If you need help understanding and using gender-neutral words, pronouns, or other affirming language, or want additional guidance on writing ceremonies celebrating same-sex couples, check out Asked to Officiate, or review the templates we offer in our Sample Ceremony Script Library



Takeaway Tip:


No two couples are the same, so an important step in writing any ceremony is asking a couple what kind of wording or traditions they prefer. Don’t make assumptions! This goes for all couples, including LGBTQ+ and straight couples.


Simple changes can have a big impact. AMM is centered in the belief that all couples should be able to marry, and experience the joys and protections of marriage, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or economic class. We’ll keep an eye on this and other legislation, and continue to keep you up to date on any big changes that will impact our officiants and couples. 

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

Natasha Anakotta
Natasha Anakotta

Guest Contributor

Natasha is passionate about promoting marriage equality, and encouraging couples to celebrate in a way that’s authentic and unique. Aside from weddings, she enjoys Star Wars, true crime podcasts, and eating macarons by the dozen.

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