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Removal of gender-specific terms from House rules does not amount to a ban

January 15, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called herself a “wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter” on the floor of the House of Representatives this week after banning that type of gender-specific language in all House communications.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. A resolution passed in the House in early January struck several gender-specific terms from a document outlining House rules in a move to honor all gender identities.” The change did not ban lawmakers from using such language in floor speeches or other congressional communications.

THE FACTS: On Wednesday, as Pelosi opened debate for what would become the second impeachment of President Donald Trump, she identified herself using gender-specific language.

“I stand before you as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter,” Pelosi said. “A daughter whose father proudly served in this Congress.”

In the days after the speech, widespread social media posts called Pelosi a hypocrite, falsely claiming that she had recently banned words like “wife” and “mother” from all House communications.

“Pelosi Only Makes It a Few Days Before Violating Her Own ‘Woke’ Rule,” read the caption of a Facebook video shared more than 10,000 times.

“OOPS!” read superimposed text on a video posted by the conservative website Breitbart News. “PELOSI CALLS HERSELF ‘A WIFE, A MOTHER’ AFTER HOUSE IMPOSES SEXLESS SPEECH CODES.” 

These posts are missing context. The House this month introduced a new version of its rules document, which was edited to incorporate gender-neutral language. The change affected the text of only that one document; it did not ban gender-specific language anywhere else.

Each time a new U.S. Congress convenes, it adopts a new set of rules. Those rules are contained in a document called the “Rules of the House of Representatives.”

On Jan. 1, Pelosi and Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern introduced the new set of rules for the 117th Congress. It included several changes from the rules package for the 116th Congress, including using gender-neutral language instead of gender-specific language in references to pronouns and familial relationships. 

The House approved the new rules on Jan. 4. House members are not barred from using gender-specific language in bills, speeches or elsewhere.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

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