Governor Newsom signs legislation continuing the removal of offensive and stigmatizing language in our state codes

On June 26, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 46 (Carrillo), cosponsored by Disability Rights California and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, which continues the work of replacing derogatory terms in the state criminal and civil codes relating to mental health disorders.

 
Destigmatizing Mental Illness

Governor Newsom signs legislation continuing the removal of offensive and stigmatizing language in our state codes.

On June 26, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 46 (Carrillo), cosponsored by Disability Rights California and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, which continues the work of replacing derogatory terms in the state criminal and civil codes relating to mental health disorders.  For example, in AB 46 replaces the term “insane” with the term “mental health disorder”. This bill follows legislation from past years that removed derogatory references to “mental retardation,”  “idiot,” “lunatic,” and similar terms.

Statutes often reflect the times in which they were passed.  Stigmatizing language around mental illness can cause self-shame, convey negative judgments and reinforces negative stereotypes.  By replacing such terms as, “crazy, lunatic, insane, feeble-minded, mentally defective, and abnormal,” with language that is destigmatizing, AB 46 will encourage acceptance of the normalcy and reality of widespread mental health challenges.  Our words used in our laws should not perpetuate old biases.

As greater societal change happens at the state and local governmental level, we may see greater acceptance and less stigma against people with mental health disabilities by businesses, our neighbors, co-workers, media and the community at large.  AB 46 will ensure our laws will be reflective of that change.

We appreciate the leadership of Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo on AB 46 for continuing the important work of ensuring our codes are reflective of inclusionary values.