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Arizona Senate passes bill spelling out legal definition of 'male' and 'female'

A bill that passed the Arizona Senate would set legal definitions for “male” and "female," as well as other gendered terms, like “mother” and “father."

Republican lawmakers who introduced the “The Woman’s Bill of Rights” say the purpose is to provide clarity in state laws and equality of the sexes.

"It provides much needed clarity in our statutes and uniformity for the courts,'' said Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye. And she said nothing in SB 1628, which cleared the Senate Thursday on a 16-12 party-line vote, precludes individuals from having their own "gender identity.''

It spells out that is determined at birth, includes only male or female as an option, is "objective and fixed,'' and "does not include gender identity or any other term that is intended to convey a person's subject sense of self and may not be used as a synonym or substitute for the term sex.''

Democratic Sen. Anna Hernandez voted against the measure, pointing out that Arizona has yet to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

"That is legislation that would give us the right to pay equity, let's pass the ERA, let's pass legislation that would give us the right to be free from gender violence and sexual discrimination," Hernandez said. 

Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson, said the wording of the bill would eliminate any legal recognition of transgender people "who are already at higher risk of violence.''

"We need to be protecting the populations who need it the most,'' she said.

The bill now goes to the House. 

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.