‘Outdated’ terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ axed in California

The words “husband” and “wife” are being dropped from the US state of California’s marriage law – to accommodate same-sex marriage.

The term “spouse” will now be used in the state after Governor Jerry Brown signed a new piece of legislation into law on Monday.

US politician Mark Leno, who wrote the Bill, claimed the legislation “removes outdated and biased language from state codes”.


The law, SB1306, will come into force on 1 January 2015 and is the latest in a long-running legal battle over marriage in California.

In 2008 a 52 per cent majority of California’s citizens voted to amend the state constitution to protect the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

However, following a Supreme Court case last year the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex marriages could take place in the state.


Under the new law marriage is defined as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons”.

The National Organization for Marriage, a US-based pro-traditional marriage group, said the move was: “Further proof that redefining marriage is not simply about ‘equality’ or expanding the institution to include more kinds of relationships”.

Rather, it added, it is “about fundamentally altering the meaning of the institution itself, and discarding terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ to ‘the ash heap of history.'”


In the UK, MPs approved changes that replaced the terms “husband” and “wife” in many pieces of legislation earlier this year.

A committee of MPs also voted in favour of changes that stop the title Princess of Wales being given to a man in a same-sex marriage with a future Prince of Wales.

Colin Hart, Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage said at the time: “We repeatedly warned that the Government’s plans were ill thought out, complicated and would have a damaging effect on those who support traditional marriage.”

“Those warnings were dismissed, yet just a few months later we have Ministers engaged in an unprecedented and systematic drive to airbrush out of law words like husband, wife and widow in order to make the legislation work.”

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