New York Governor Vetoes Respectful Language Bill
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 25, 2005
ALBANY, NEW YORK--Despite efforts by disability advocates -- and nearly unanimous support from the state Legislature -- New York Governor George E. Pataki has chosen to veto a measure that would have required "people first" language in state and local laws, regulations and charters when referring to people with disabilities.
"I cannot support legislation requiring politically correct speech, especially, when it establishes standards that are vague and subjective," the governor remarked when he announced the veto on August 19.
"Respect, sensitivity and courtesy must be the product of our ongoing efforts, not a code of politically correct terminology," he added, in his veto notes.
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a Democrat who has a 47-year-old son with disabilities, wrote the measure with the help of other parents in an effort to reshape how society sees their children.
The legislation would have required writers of laws and codes to use terminology that put the person ahead of his or her label. Using "people first" language, for example, an individual would be described as "a person with a disability" rather than "a disabled person", "the disabled" or "the handicapped". Negative terms, such as "afflicted with cerebral palsy," would also be off limits in certain documents.
"I mean, 'How is your retarded son?' What, are you kidding me?" Weisenberg, asked the New York Times. "I mean, that is the way people address people with disabilities. They see the disability and not the child, and the intent of my legislation is to see the children and not the disability."
The New York Times speculated that Pataki's decision was influenced by a likely bid to for the presidency on the Republican ticket, even though the bill was passed unanimously in the Republican-led State Senate and a 144 to 1 vote in the Democrat-led Assembly.
Last year, disability rights advocates in the state of Washington pushed through a similar respectful language bill. It faced no opposition in either house of the Legislature nor from then-Governor Gary Locke.
"Pataki Rejects Bill Regulating Language of Public Documents" (New York Times)
"Pataki vetoes bill that mandates politically correct language in laws" (Associated Press via Auburn Citizen)