The claim: Rule change in the House of Representatives bans gendered language
The House of Representatives is governed by a set of rules. They are specific to each Congress and passed at the start of the legislative session.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Rules Committee Chair James McGovern unveiled the Rules of the 117th Congress on Jan. 1, with several changes to previous rules.
One change was to "honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House Rules to be gender neutral."
The rules were adopted with the passage of H.R. 8 by a vote of 217-206 on Jan. 4.
The language changehas prompted backlash from conservatives, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who claimed on Twitter that Democrats "won't let you say 'gendered' words like 'father' and 'mother.'"
The graphic lists the following terms: "father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, step sister, half brother, half sister, grandson, granddaughter."
McCarthy and the users on Facebook and Instagram have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.
The changes to gendered language only apply to the text of Rules of the House; no terms were banned
It's true that the Rules of the 117th Congress include changes to gendered language. But they don't "ban" the terms from use in the House. The change only alters the text of Standing Rules to strike gender-specific language and replace it with gender-neutral language.
The rules package would "revise certain official language but would not prevent the use of gendered language," explains a report by The Hill.
Let's look at the example from the graphic on Fox News.
The change only applies to the language in Clause 8(c)(3) of Rule XXIII, which is the Code of Official Conduct for the House. The rule states that "a member, delegate, or resident commissioner may not retain the relative of such individual in a paid position." That clause is listed at the bottom of the Fox News graphic.
Clause 8(c)(3) specifies what individuals the rule includes in the term "relative."
Previously, the clause defined "relative" as "father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandson, or granddaughter."
Now, the clause will define "relative" as "parent, child, sibling, parent's sibling, first cousin, sibling's child, spouse, parent-in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, or grandchild."
Other changes to the text of the Rules of the 117th Congress include switching the term "seamen" to "seafarers," the word "Chairman" to "Chair," and the phrase "himself or herself" to "themself."
It's false to suggest that any of these words have been widely banned; they have simply been switched in the text of one document, the Rules of the House of Representatives.
"Its consequences were limited to that document alone, and would have no bearing on the continued ability of House members to use gender-specific language in drafting legislation and resolutions, making speeches, or conducting a debate," reads a fact-check by Snopes.
Tessica Glancey, a spokesperson for Fox News, directed USA TODAY to examples of the network's reporting that acknowledges the limited scope of the changes.
On Jan. 14, Steve Doocy - a co-host of "Fox & Friends," the program that aired the graphic - told viewers "these changes only apply to the rules document and do not prevent the House members from using gendered language."
A story on Fox News also notes, "There's nothing in the rules that prohibit members from using gender-specific terms when speaking on the House floor or conducting business."
But many social media posts that include the Fox News graphic do not present the news with that context, seeing the change as an outright ban on the use of the words.
McGovern has condemned the criticism of the change.
"It's mind-blowing that some people have found it controversial to say 'parents' instead of listing 'mother and father," he said. "Only in Congress would it be a scandal to be succinct. We are being inclusive, efficient, and accurate."
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, the claim that a rule change in the House of Representatives bans gendered language is MISSING CONTEXT. It's true that the Rules of the 117th Congress contained changes to gendered language. But they didn't "ban" any terms from use in the House. They only altered the text of Standing Rules to strike gender-specific language and replace it with gender-neutral language. Claims that all uses of gendered language have been banned are false.
Our fact-check sources:
House Committee on Rules, Jan. 1, "Pelosi and McGovern Unveil Details of Rules Package for the 117th Congress"
Congress.gov, H.Res.8 - Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives of the One Hundred Seventeenth Congress, and for other purposes, Actions
The Hill, Jan. 4, "House introduces gender-neutral language in new rules for Congress"
Congress.gov, H.Res.8 - Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives of the One Hundred Seventeenth Congress, and for other purposes, Text
Tessica Glancey, Jan. 15, Interview with USA TODAY
Fox News, Jan. 14, "Pelosi uses slew of gendered terms despite introducing resolution opposing them"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: House rules only changed gendered language in one document