SALT LAKE CITY — Utah was the first state where a woman voted. It was also the first place to elect a woman to the state senate.
But the Utah State Constitution makes reference to only "men" throughout a large part of the document. Amendment A, which will be on November's ballot, will strike the words "men" and "man" and change it to the gender-neutral "person."
"We have an equal rights provision in our state constitution. We have women’s suffrage in our state constitution, we’ve had that since 1895. It was important to the people when we became a state that women were included, so it struck me as odd when I read that section and it only specified men. I know that wasn’t the intent," Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, who sponsored the bill that became Amendment A, said in an interview with FOX 13.
Unlike changing state code and laws, which can be done by the Utah State Legislature, any modifications to the Utah Constitution must be done by a vote of the people. There are seven proposed constitutional amendments this year, including one that would remove references to "slavery" from the founding document.
Sen. Henderson said there are six provisions that reference men only. They include the rights that all Utahns enjoy, the rights of those accused of a crime, and those who are elected to public office.
"It talks about 'he' and 'him' in all of those sections and we’re just replacing that with 'the legislator,' or 'the accused,' instead of just assuming that all criminals are men or all legislators are men," she said, later adding: "Instead of having 'these rights are inherent in all men,' it’s inherent in all persons."
The Utah State Legislature voted unanimously in 2019 to put the issue on the ballot. Sen. Henderson said she has yet to hear any opposition to making the change.
"I’ve heard from absolutely no one. I hope people see it for what it is which is updating terminology the way people actually talk and write now to make sure we’re including men and women in all of these things," she said.