Rep. Armini seeks to amend the state Constitution to include women and nonbinary titles

Representative Jenny Armini of Marblehead wants to amend the state Constitution to add “her” and “their” as options when using the Governor’s Excellency title and the Lieutenant Governor’s Honor title.

Rep. Jenny Armini of Marblehead: ‘History has blown by the Massachusetts Constitution.’

“History has blown by the Massachusetts Constitution. It is well past time to catch up,” said Armini, who testified for her bills before the Judiciary Committee on March 28. “According to our foundational document, Governor Maura Healey is referred to as ‘His Excellency.’ Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll is referred to as ‘His Honor.’ This legislation would correct those anachronisms by beginning the process of amending the Constitution.”

Specifically, H.30 and H.31, would add “her” and “their” to the existing “his” pronoun preceding the two honorifics.

“Words matter,” said Armini, who is a former speechwriter, including chief speechwriter to then-Acting Governor Jane Swift. “Language is how we communicate our values, and it’s a tool by which citizens learn who and what is important. Actions often follow accordingly.

“The original exclusion of Her speaks to the mores of a different time in our nation’s history. By including both Her and Their, we capture the progress made, and we ensure that all people are respected and reflected in our most important document,” explained Armini.

Explaining inclusion of “their” pronouns in her amendments, Armini called for lawmakers to look toward a future day when “someone unencumbered by gender, or gender assigned at birth, sits in the corner office.”

She referred to Rep. Sam Montano, another first-term House member who uses both female and nonbinary pronouns, as one politician who is “full of promise.”

First-term Rep. Dawne Shand of Newburyport recalled, as a high school student in Alabama, her teacher saying that male pronouns in government documents were appropriately “encompassing” of all.

Shand disagreed, as did Rep. Mindy Domb, who spoke in favor of the Armini amendments and her own proposal (H 32) which would replace the word “he” with the phrase “the person” everywhere it appears in the document.

“‘He’ is not an inclusive term. ‘He’ is a gendered term,” said Domb.

Gov. Maura Healey told reporters that she hadn’t heard about the proposals.

“I think people know how to refer to me, they refer to me in a lot of different ways,” Healey said.

The governor also made light of the 18th century language.

“I guess Abigail didn’t have a hand in that,” said Healey, apparently referring to Abigail Adams, who famously implored her husband John to “remember the ladies” in his public policy work.

“Where was she? She wasn’t at home that day,” Healey quipped.

The Judiciary Committee has until April 26 to issue positive or negative reports on the various bills it heard Tuesday. Lawmakers then face a May 10 deadline to call up any of those proposals to feature on the Constitutional Convention calendar for this session.

The State House News Service contributed to this report.

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

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