With near-unanimous approval from Congress, a bill is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk to strip yet another term deemed offensive to people with disabilities from federal law.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 398 to 1 Wednesday to pass a bill that would remove the word “lunatic” from the nation’s laws. The measure was easily approved in the Senate in May and now advances to the White House for Obama’s signature.
Backers of the bill known as the 21st Century Language Act say it’s an effort to update U.S. law for the times. The word “lunatic” originates from Latin and the outdated belief that mental issues were triggered by changes in the moon. The term is now considered derogatory by many with mental illness and other disabilities.
“Federal law should reflect the 21st century understanding of mental illness and disease,” the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said in introducing the measure earlier this year. “The continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the U.S. Code.”
The effort to strip “lunatic” from the nation’s books comes two years after Congress voted to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of federal law.
The sole House vote against the bill came from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who told the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill that he has no problem with the word “lunatic” being used in federal law.